Conor Hoey still playing at Dublin University
Conor Hoey was that rarity in Irish cricket, a top class leg spinner, one of the few such bowlers to command a regular place in the national side. He was, however, not such a rarity in another way for our cricket in coming from a family dedicated to the game. His father, Gerry, brothers John and Fergal and nephew John's son - Benn - all played at senior level. John and young Benn continue to do so. In addition, his mother Maeve and sister Sinead appeared regularly for the CYM women's team. As the name of his school would suggest, Conor was also a fine rugby footballer, winning both school and senior interprovincial honours for Leinster.
He delivered his leg breaks at a briskish pace, tending to push the ball through rather than flight it. He came in for some criticism for never fully mastering or developing his googly, but as his figures suggest he was a formidable opponent for batsmen at all levels of the game. As Siggins and Fitzgerald point out, his novelty value made him a worthy opponent against county sides, one batsman declaring him, "twice as good as Ian Salisbury." Salisbury being, of course the long serving Surrey and Sussex leg spinner who gained 15 Test caps 1992 - 2000. Conor was also a useful, if impetuous lower order batsman, far from being a "ferret" though most of his captains in representative matches decided that he should bat "one above the roller." He had two senior hundreds to his credit, one each for CYM and Dublin University, and also some worthwhile knocks for Ireland.
He first came to prominence while a schoolboy with a quick 38 in the U15 interprovincial tournament in 1983. This was enough to enable Leinster to defeat the NCU XI, but they went on to lose the final to North West by 6 wickets. Together with John, he was prominent in the Ulster Bank U19 Competition in 1985 and 1986. In both years they destroyed the Munster batting, Conor having 3-22 at the Mardyke in the former season and 4-9 in the latter. He also showed his batting prowess in 1986, hitting a typically robust 38 in a drawn encounter with Ulster Country at Terenure.
Those two summers also found him in the Irish School side, as captain in the second year. His debut against Wales at Ynysygeryn CC saw a draw very much in the hosts' favour, Conor having one wicket in the match that of the Welsh captain Stewart Maddock, later to play for Wales Minor Counties and Glamorgan 2nd XI. John Hoey was also in the side, his second year in the team, as were Angus Dunlop, Brian Miller and future rugby internationals, Mark McCall and Vincent Cunningham.
The following summer, at the attractive Rhos on Sea ground home of Colwyn Bay CC, Ireland were heavily defeated never really recovering from a disastrous start of being dismissed for 91 in the first innings. Conor did have the personal satisfaction of taking 3-35 in Wales' first innings, the best figures for Ireland. From Colwyn Bay, the team moved north east to Chesterfield to play an English Schools XI, which included two future Test men in Mark Ramprakash and the Lancashire fast bowler Peter Martin, who, like Jack Russell, was later to win off field fame with a paint brush. The hosts included six others who were later to play regular county cricket. Conor had two wickets one being the future long term Worcestershire batsman and administrator, David Leatherdale. The match ended in a draw, fortunately for the visitors who found it hard to counter the off spin of Harvey Trump, later to be a useful addition to Somerset's ranks. The following season, 1987, saw Conor captaining Ireland in the International Youth Tournament, held in the NCU area. Ireland finished third, their best match a commanding 193 runs win over Canada, Conor leading the way with 5-12.
He was also to be prominent in the late 80s in university cricket. After one year at UCD - whom he represented in the Irish Universities' tournament - he switched to Dublin University for whom he was to have a most distinguished career, which is outlined below. For the Irish Universities side he had a fair degree of success, starting with the 2 day match against Ireland U23 in College Park in 1987. This match saw the Universities win by 8 wickets, their heroes Mark Nulty with an elegant 116 and Conor with outstanding first innings figures of 22.2-9-38-6, his wickets including Alan Lewis and Decker Curry. In the 1989 British and Irish Universities Tournament, he led the way in two excellent wins, taking 3-29 v London University, thus helping to set up a 3 wickets victory and, having a fine all round performance against English Universities Unicorns, scoring 43* at No 8 before going on to take 2-29. Ireland won by 4 runs.
Conor's career in senior cricket in Dublin was to be a most successful one, bringing him 601 wickets at 17.59, 336 of them for CYM. He had 29 five wicket hauls. He also did great work for Dublin University, for whom he had two careers, rejoining the Club in the late 1990s when they were in real difficulty. He had two seasons as captain and was later president, besides taking, in all, 221 wickets and making 105 appearances, both club records. In what transpired to be his last full season in senior cricket - 2001 - when he turned out for both the University and Old Belvedere, he was still a force to be reckoned with as his performance in the Whitney Moore League for Old Belvedere against Malahide reveals. Batting first OB, the visitors, struggled to 88 all out. Rain caused a revised target for the hosts but they were dismissed for 58 with Conor returning the figures of 14.5-5-19-5.
He was also prominent in senior interprovincials, causing many problems for batsmen unused to quality wrist spin. His two best performances were against Munster, where he again tied up batsmen whom he had troubled at U19 level. Thus at Rathmines in 1987, South Leinster posted 267-7 but found their hosts also in good batting form. Victory was due to Conor who took 5-61 in 27 overs, including 3 of the last 4 wickets to fall as the visitors lower order collapsed from 185-6 to 206 all out. South Leinster again passed 200 at the Mardyke the following year, but Conor's bowling made the difference, his figures of 16 - 6 - 30 -5, seeing SL home by 92 runs. Another good performance at Kimmage came against the arguably tougher opposition of Ulster Town in 1991. SL led off with a distinctly useful 230-4 but Town were never in the hunt being bowled out for 91, Conor having the best analysis fir the victors of 12-5-16-5.
In 42 matches for Ireland between 1991 and 1995 Conor took 78 wickets at 30.33 with four "5 fors." His best performance came in only his third match a three day affair against Mashonaland Country Districts on the Zimbabwe tour of Spring 1991. He went wicketless in the first innings as Keith Arnott, who was later to score a Test hundred for Zimbabwe hit 101*. Ireland declared behind and, in the hosts second innings, Conor came into his own. Bowling with zip and bounce, he took 6-19 in 11 overs including Arnott and Grant Paterson, a member of two Zimbabwe World Cup squads. The match ended in a draw as did the MCC game at Lord's in the summer when Conor again claimed a second innings "5 for", his figures being 18-3-48-5, including MCC captain Roger Knight, formerly of Surrey, Gloucestershire and Sussex, with almost 20000 first class runs to his credit. A further draw came against Wales at Usk though once more little blame could be laid Conor's door, his 6-62 in 35 overs including the top three in the order. That summer had also seen him shine with the bat in a Nat West match against Middlesex at Malahide. Ireland had done well to restrict the county to 216-9 in 60 overs, but fell well behind the rate. Conor, at 8, finished on 26*, adding 47 for the 9th wicket with Paul McCrum, the two showing that the bowling could be hit. The following year the Londoners were at The Village again for a two day friendly. Conor had a good all round match, taking 6 wickets, including 4-63 in the second innings, and hitting a brisk 34 as he and McCrum again unsuccessfully chased a target which proved too much against professional bowling. However his outstanding moment of the match came in the first innings when he trapped Mike Gatting leg before for 20, thus proving that, like Shane Warne at Old Trafford a year later, he had indeed delivered a ball and not a bread roll to the bearded trencherman!
Conor also had two excellent performances in the 1994 ICC Trophy in Kenya when Ireland just failed to qualify for the following year's World Cup. In a rain affected match with Papua New Guinea, Ireland totalled 230-8 which PNG with their innings reduced - at which they protested - could only reply with 88-7. This somewhat disappointing response was in no small way due to a Man of the Match performance of 5-29 in 10 overs from Conor. He was helped by a brilliant stumping from Paul Jackson to send back the PNG captain Leka, and a running backwards diving catch by Angus Dunlop to finish the match. Conor was also Man of the Match in what was a "dead" game against Malaysia with figures of 10-3-18-4.
Just over a year later, at the end of the 1995 season, he announced his retirement from representative cricket. At the age of 27, he might have been expected to play for some years yet, leg spinners being said, like good wine, to mature with age. however he had good reasons for retiring,. Shoulder injuries, the bane of many bowlers of his type, including Richie Benaud and Warne, were taking a heavy toll. He was also finding it hard to square the demands of cricket with those of work. He was no longer able to find the time to tour, which cut little ice with the Team Ireland concept of new coach Mike Hendrick. His performances in senior cricket, and on the rare occasions he has since been tempted back into cricket of a semi serious nature, show just what Irish cricket lost when Conor Joseph Hoey decided to call it a day. He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
Last weekend Conor played for Dublin University against Malahide in Division 2.