Paul Barry Jackson

  • Born: 9 December 1959 Belfast
  • Educated: Campbell College, Belfast
  • Occupation: Self employed Sales Representative
  • Debut: 7 June 1981 v Canada at Ormeau
  • Cap Number: 538
  • Style: Right hand bat; wicket keeper.
  • Teams: NICC, Belfast Harlequins, Civil Service North.

Paul Jackson was undoubtedly one of the finest wicket keepers ever to wear the gloves for Ireland. Many would not bother with the qualifying words. Dermot Monteith, who for most of his Irish career, bowled with Ossie Colhoun behind the stumps, thought Paul the better of the two, while paceman John Elder described him as, "An automatic choice in my top Irish team."

There was no doubt whatsoever that Paul excelled standing back. Alan Lewis marvelled at the way he got to genuine leg glances but there was sometimes criticism of his keeping to spinners. However he very quickly improved this facet of his play - witness Monteith's approval of him - so that by the time he was fully established in the Irish side, few if any more criticisms were offered.

Perhaps his one weakness was to be injury prone and as he missed a number of matches for this reason. One of his temporary replacements, Keith Bailey of YMCA thought him, "Better than Downton." Paul Downton was the highly rated England gloveman of the early to mid 1980s, when Keith was asked to "answer Ireland's call" while "Jacko" was injured.

Paul was an unorthodox, but often effective batsman, with a highest Irish score of 89* v Wales at Welshpool in 1987, a match in which he conceded no byes. His most effective shot was known by team-mates as "the revolving door." It consisted of a hoick which brought a ball from well outside off stump to square leg and involved Paul turning a complete circle in the process.

Paul first came to general notice as a Campbell College schoolboy, both in the Ulster Schools XI and for Irish Schools v Welsh Schools at Bangor (North Wales not Ward Park) in July 1977. The match was ruined by rain, as many have been in this fixture, but Paul impressed. He made no dismissals but allowed only three byes in the match. Ireland included four other future internationals in Brian Gilmore (captain), James Patterson, Stephen Warke and Garfield Harrison.

In the hosts' XI was future England fast bowler Greg Thomas, who bowled first change and failed to take a wicket! Paul was of course a fixture in the NICC side for many years, helping them win three NCU cups and share the League on two occasions. It was appropriate that in the famous club's last final in 1999, that not only should the Ormeau club win, but Paul play a significant part. His keeping was immaculate as usual, but in the second innings he made a rare top score, only 36 but of crucial value in a 15 run victory.

Unsurprisingly, Paul was the most prolific keeper in the Ormeau club's proud history, as well as being, probably, the most accomplished. He regularly exceeded 30 dismissals a season thus surpassing the previous record established by Eddie Marks, whose career total Paul also eclipsed, though, of course, some of Eddie's life behind the stumps was spent at The Green.

Paul was a permanent member of the Ulster Town interprovincial side from 1978 -1992, making 91 dismissals, thus establishing a tournament record. He also set a match record in 1990 against North Leinster at Lurgan. This was a somewhat unusual achievement in that all were caught off the bowling of Paul McCrum, who finished with 8-48, as North Leinster, having reached 122-1, thanks to a good opening stand by David Pigot and Deryck Vincent, reached 203 all out.

The rains came to Pollock Park with the hosts on 128-5. His career began in the 1978 season with a distinguished victim, catching Jack Short off Simon Corlett and in only his third match v Munster at The Mardyke, had his first 5 dismissals return, as he helped Ulster Town to a commanding win over their hosts. His immaculate form continued until the last. Another five dismissals - four off McCrum - coming in his penultimate match v Ulster Country in 1992.

In his 87 matches for Ireland, he made 132 dismissals, of which 29 were stumped. Ossie, in the same number of matches, had 148 victims to his credit, stumping 42 of them. However it must be remembered that Paul played a large number of one day matches, most of which were limited overs games, so his opportunities were much more limited than the Sion stalwart's.

He established a record for an Irish wicket keeper, since equalled by Niall O'Brien, of 6 dismissals in an innings at Titwood, Glasgow at the end of the 1984 season, in which, according to the ICU Yearbook 1985, he, "had kept wicket brilliantly." The Scots won the toss and totalled 244, Paul conceding only one bye, besides taking his six catches. As the Scots batted - successfully - to save the match - he held one more catch to equal Ossie Colhoun's match record of seven.

Earlier in the season, he had helped Ireland beat MCC by 8 wickets at Ormeau, making four dismissals in the second innings. With one stumping and three catches, all off Monteith, he gave the lie once and for all, to those who saw him as weak standing up. His glovework to the spinners was in evidence again in Ireland's first ever match with the Club Cricket Conference at Norbury, the following year. Ireland were heavily defeated, but with the ball turning sharply on a difficult wicket, four dismissals, including stumpings off Mike Halliday and Junior McBrine showed Paul's skills at their best.

He was disinclined to allow byes, sometimes returning a clean sheet. Against Scotland at Myreside in 1990, he allowed Mr Extras no runs in this manner, even though Scotland batted for 123 overs. Paul's batting style did not please the purists, any more it must be said, than did his somewhat untidy appearance, either behind or in front of the wicket. However those with little or nothing else left to criticise had the same comments about another great gloveman, England's idiosyncratic keeper Jack Russell.

Paul was not as good a batsman as the Stroud artist, but he too could score runs in awkward situations. At Myreside in 1982 he helped Simon Corlett, who finished on 39*, after a three hour marathon, add 84 for the 8th wicket, prolonging the match and forcing the hosts to bat again. He played a leading role in the Gloucestershire match at Bristol in August 1983, a game which Ireland fell only 8 run short of a famous victory. Paul's first innings 42, at No 9, ended when future Chairman of Selectors David Graveney's left arm spin defeated him, was second top score to Robert Wills' 67, he and helped Ireland trail by only 6 runs. He also allowed no byes in the County's first innings and only 2 in the second. He could hardly be blamed for succumbing to Graveney for a second innings duck.

He made a fighting 25* v West Indies at Rathmines in 1984, saving the match with Alan Jeffrey in an unbeaten last wicket stand, a fine achievement for two tail enders, even though the troops were mostly resting. His highest score for Ireland came against Wales at Welshpool in 1987. On this occasion the conditions were made for batting, the wicket was good and the boundaries were short. Rain washed out half the match so a draw was always going to be the most likely result. Both sides made 321, with Paul top scoring for Ireland, but being left stranded on 89* as he ran out of partners. Yet he had again to bat in a crisis. Despite a typically belligerent 79 from Alf Masood, Ireland were 179-7 when he came in. He added 120 for the 8th with James Patterson, and, in all, faced only 85 balls, hitting seventeen 4s.

He also had a good stand with Patterson against Scotland at Myreside in 1990. This match was also rain interrupted and ended in a draw, with Garfield Harrison taking the headlines with 9-113 in Scotland's only innings. However Ireland, batting first were in some trouble at 179-7 when "Jacko" joined Patterson. They added 110.

Paul captained Ireland on 25 occasions. Clarence Hiles has described him as "an inspirational captain", but at international level it must be said that his record of 1 win and 8 draws seems rather ordinary. However he lacked some of the best players of the preceding years, and had to begin with matches against Pakistan (2), Gloucestershire (2) and Northamptonshire.

Paul Barry Jackson retired from representative cricket at the height of his powers. Whether he was Ireland's best ever wicket keeper is a matter for fascinating cricket debate on long winter evenings or as the rain pours down in the summer days. Suffice it to say that we are fortunate indeed to have had such a reliable and skilful gloveman to call upon. He is justly profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."