After a playing career spanning 46 years, Dundrum Cricket Club’s Jeff Maguire has decided it is time to hang up his boots.
The 62-year-old is a well-known figure in the Northern Cricket Union and his passion for the game shines in every conversation.
Having played his final match last month, rounding off a career which started in the early-1970s, Maguire will be hosting two specia fixtures on Sunday, August 4 at The Meadow as he aims to raise £1,500 for an electronic scoreboard to be installed at a place he has called home for almost half a century.
After two operations this year, Maguire has had to step away from the playing side of things but will undoubtedly continue to play a massive role behind the scenes with coaching and youth development.
He recovered from two brain operations 16 years ago to return to the field, and recalls vividly his first match back and the emotional rollercoaster it brought with it.
“The first match I came back to play was against Academy and they gave me a guard of honour coming out onto the pitch,” he said. “When I got out to the wicket, the tears were pouring.
“Luckily, the first ball from Brian Boyd was down the leg-side and I hit it for four - I’m not sure whether he gave me a free one or not!
“Their captain, Davy Greenlees, shouted ‘that’s enough of the sentimental bowling’!
“I batted with a young fella and we got within eight of winning with three overs to go. I told him I wanted to walk off here as a hero, and he said Jeff ‘I won’t let you down’.
“The first ball was the biggest swing you’ll ever see and when he came over to me he was crying.
“I had another two operations this year and I don’t want to put my body through any more.
“I played my last match against BISC IIIs and took a wicket and put on a 50 partnership. I could have batted for three days!
“I just thought to myself that it was the last time I would be on my home ground so wanted to make the most of it.”
This won’t mark the first fundraising effort Maguire has undertaken for the benefit of the club he holds so dear to his heart, after raising £1,900 for new covers at the ground a couple of years ago.
His commitment to everything Dundrum related has been admirable over the years and perhaps best illustrated by the fact he missed his sister’s wedding in order to play for the club.
“It’s my second family and life,” he said. “My kids never had a summer holiday because of cricket and that is one thing I would change if I had to go back through it again. I was probably too much into cricket.
“I never missed a game over my kids, but I’ve missed probably 10 or more over the last four years with my grandchildren.
“I missed my sister’s wedding over an important match when we were in Section Four. I didn’t go to the wedding and she still isn’t happy about it!
“I said ‘I’ll go to the evening-do’ and luckily we won the match!”
It isn’t an easy task picking a single highlight from such a long career, but a couple stick out in Maguire’s mind.
“Getting the chance to captain the first XI was amazing and to captain two winning Mid-Ulster Cup teams,” he said. “We beat The Nedd and Bonds Glen in the two finals and both matches were at The Meadow in Dundrum.
“Both clubs brought a busload and I would have been happy to lose both matches because they are great cricket people, lucky enough we won both and I captained both teams.
“That would be mainly my highlight of my career.
“We started out in the old Section Four and played against the likes of CIYMS and Derriaghy. You were facing bowlers like Simon Redpath from Academy back in those days, it was a great standard of cricket.”
Dundrum’s first XI are on course for promotion from Section Three, having won all eight of their league matches to date and, with the growing strength of their youth section, Maguire believes the club is in a strong position.
“We lost five or six very good players and we have gone with a younger side and it’s paying off,” he said. “If we go up this year and then down again next year, then so be it.
“The main thing for Dundrum is to have a good club and everyone enjoying the game. Winning is important, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything.
“This year has given us a big buzz and I would be proud if they went up, they would find it tougher going up a league but we would still be competitive.
“I would love to get another overseas coach next season, not a match-winner.
“We really need a good coach to work with the juniors and get them playing proper cricket. We have great volunteer coaches at the club and a forward-thinking committee.”
The first match next weekend will be a ‘Jeff’s Golden Oldies’ taking on Dundrum at 12 noon before a ‘Jeff Maguire XI’ go up against a NCU President’s Select XI at 2.45pm.
It will be followed by a raffle with 10 prizes including an overnight stay for two in the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa, a painting by local artist Richard Croft and two tickets to a Manchester City home Premier League football match.
“I want to give something back to the lifelong friends that cricket has given me - that’s what it’s all about,” said Maguire. “The amount of people that want to play in this - I could have four matches.
“I want to get the likes of Mark Yates, Ashwin Shetty, Brian Woodruff, James Cunningham and the McCanns playing.
“I want to get a team that I had played with and it’s not about winning on the day.”
If you would like to support Jeff’s retirement games, you can donate at the following link: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dundrumcc-jeffsfarewell?utm_id=108&utm_term=842Vv59mR