Jacko Heaslip: an outstanding all rounder
John Ganly Heaslip OBE
As a 16 year old he showed his class with a stylish 76 against arch rivals High School, bettering this the following season, 1917, with a great all round performance against St Andrew's College, 118* being matched by 5-20 with the ball. Captain in the following year, he left the school as one of its best ever cricketers; his deeds, perhaps, only matched in the future by two Irish captains, coaching guru Noel Mahony, and medium fast destroyer of the Windies at Sion Mills, Dougie Goodwin.
Entering Dublin University in the autumn of 1918, Jacko was five years in the XI from 1919, though his appearances in his final season, 1924, were spasmodic. In the Leinster Senior League, he scored 2293 runs at 43.26 with five centuries, his highest 173* v Pembroke in College Park in 1921, still the highest by a University batsman in that competition. That season he scored 668 league runs, 800 in all University matches. The following summer he was again on top form with 687 runs at 52.84, Pembroke again feeling the full force of his stroke play with a brilliant 141 in 150 minutes, before in Pembroke's second knock, taking 5-20! That season he also turned on the heat against his other club, Leinster, rushing to 100 out of 150 in 105 minutes with one 6 and eleven 4s. He had one other hundred that year, as well as scores of 97 and 86*. His season's total in all matches was 992, with classy all rounder and rugby International Mark Sugden more than 400 runs behind him. In all, Jacko hit five League hundreds and thirteen fifties. His total aggregate for the University was 3211, though he did not live up to expectations in matches against first class opposition. He was no back number with the ball either, taking 113 wickets for the University in League matches at 12.67. As noted above, he did not play much in his final season 1924, but scored a typically brilliant century against visiting Manchester University.
In his University days, he played for Leinster CC during the holidays, continuing to do so after he graduated, though his appearances were by no means regular. Thus in 1921, his season's aggregate was 780 at 4330, while the following summer his Leinster performances stretched his season's aggregate to 889 at 49.38. This was to remain a record for Leinster league cricket until the professional era began in the 1980s. His 1922 run getting saw him win the Marchant Cup for the province's best batsman, though this was based upon his University scores alone, as, under the rules then governing the award, his four innings for Leinster were not eligible. That summer he also won the O'Grady Cup for the best all rounder, taking 58 wickets.
For Ireland, Jacko played 18 times between his debut in 1920 and his finale in August 1933. His decision to leave Ireland and follow a London based career in the UK Civil Service, restricted his availability, though his career amongst the Sir Humphreys was successful, he retired with an OBE. However his aggregate of 720 runs at 25.71, with four 50s, must be seen as slightly disappointing. Nevertheless, he did have some notable performances. His second match, the tragedy hit game with the Military of Ireland in College Park in 1920, saw him open the batting with AP Kelly and add 58 for the first wicket. However his first major innings for Ireland came in the Scots match of 1923. Opening the batting, after Scotland had totalled 372 thanks to a brilliant undefeated 172 by diminutive master-batsman John Kerr, Jacko hit 49, adding 59 for the second wicket with Jim Ganly. Ireland had to follow on, holding out for a draw thanks to a match saving not out innings by classic Ulster CC left hander Harold Jackson.
Later that summer however Jacko struck gold with a superb 96 v Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. On a square now submerged by the massive stands of the Millennium Stadium, William Pollock and Mark Sugden bowled the hosts out for 153. Ireland responded with 419 made at nearly 100 an hour. Jacko added 148 for the sixth with Louis Bookman, reaching 96 himself in 135 minutes, before being leg before to New Jersey born left armer Frank Ryan who took 1000 first class wickets for Hampshire and Glamorgan.
The following year at Ormeau, Ryan bowled Wales to victory, getting Jacko in both innings, but not before he had scored 50 and 36. Both innings were highly praised being seen as the highlights of a rather featureless match.
In 1925 at Lord's Ireland beat MCC by an innings and 10 runs, though scoring only 195 themselves. Jacko's all round performance, and some marvellous off spin from the evergreen Bob Lambert, were the features of Ireland's win. Opening the bowling against a weak batting line up, Jacko had 3-23 in 27 overs, before, batting at 7, he topscored with 62. His 6th wicket stand of 77 for the sixth with Kelly was crucial, changing the complexion and tempo of the match. In the second innings he had 3-35, as he and Lambert spun the visitors to success. What many saw as his best knock for Ireland came in a nerve racking draw with Scotland in College Park in 1927. Tom Dixon gave Ireland an advantage, bowling the Scots out for 129, to which Ireland replied with 245, Jacko's 36 being second top score to Jim Ganly's half century. Another brilliant hundred by Kerr, enabled Scotland to declare then Ireland needing 175, fell two runs short with 6 wickets in hand. The hero was Jacko whose 92* was described by The Irish Times as "one of the best innings ever seen in College Park." Together with Dixon, he added 71 in the last 35 minutes, but just failed to force the win.
He also played a notable part in Ireland's famous win over the Windies in College Park in 1928. Ireland, 31 ahead in the first innings, were struggling at 92-6 in the second innings when George McVeagh joined Jacko (44) in a partnership of 81. Jacko then fell, but he had paved the way for McVeagh's legendary innings and Ireland's victory, an epic to match anything achieved at Sion Mills or Sabina Park.
Jacko was also a prominent figure in London club cricket. He played for Hounslow for many years and for the Club Cricket Conference. He also played for the Civil Service representative side, which he captained, far after his Irish days, from 1946 to 1948. One of his best matches, however, was in 1932 against the South American touring side, which held its own against first class opposition. in a two day match at Chiswick, the visitors led off with 262, Jacko's off spin snaring 7-76, the hosts were then forced to follow on, Jacko's fighting 54* keeping the deficit within reasonable bounds, so that the match was, eventually, saved with some ease.
A brief obituary of John Ganly Heaslip appeared in Wisden 1967. He is also deservedly featured in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."
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