John Flood

  • Born: 4 January 1920 Strabane, Co Tyrone
  • Died: 5 September 1987 Strabane, Co Tyrone
  • Educated: National Primary School, Sion Mills
  • Occupation: Mill worker
  • Debut: 16 June 1948 v Yorkshire at Ormeau
  • Cap No: 439
  • Style: Left hand bat; slow left arm
  • Teams: Sion Mills

John Flood was a high quality all rounder, who must be regarded as most unlucky to be ranked amongst Irish Cricket's "One Cap Wonders." For more than three decades, his forthright batting - usually in the upper middle order, though he eventually dropped down the order to become a formidable tail ender - and sometimes well nigh unplayable spin bowling made him and his club a dominant force in North West Cricket. For many, far beyond the confines of Holm Field, it is still a source of amazement, that he should have played only once for Ireland. This is discussed further below.
He was a bowler of great accuracy. To a right hander, he delivered the ball from around the wicket, as did his great rival Scott Huey, suddenly emerging from behind the umpire off a run short even for a slow left armer. He was, perhaps, slightly faster through the air than many of his type, and, without any easily discernible change of action, would slip in a low inswinger or an arm ball. During his career, Sion carried off the NWCU Cup on eleven occasions and were defeated finalists on two more. The League title came to Holm Field nine times, as did the runners up spot. Additionally Sion lifted the NCU Challenge Cup on one occasion and shared it on another.

John had a major part in these triumphs. Thus at Beechgrove in 1945, he turned in a remarkable all round performance to bring the Cup to Co Tyrone. He began by taking 6-49 to restrict Donemana to 136, hardly enough for a first innings score. However Sion also found the going hard with the redoubtable Willie McGonigle taking 5-14 to give his side a 19 run lead. This would have been much greater had John not made 45 at No 7, the next highest score being 15. That done he took absolute control of the game. Donemana could manage only 73. Clean bowling seven of his victims, John finished with 9-23. Then Andy McFarlane saw the Villagers to a four wicket win.

John's all round skills were again in evidence in the "Local Derby" Final of 1952, when Strabane were the opponents in a match on John's home turf. He began by scoring 53 as Sion posted a useful 213 in the first innings. Batting first wicket down, he had to cope with frequent rain interruptions. He then spun the ball sharply to take 6-28 giving Sion a 53 run lead. He contributed a useful 23 to Sion's second innings, to help set the visitors a target in excess of 200. His 3-22 ensured that they did not get them. He had taken the leading role in smoothing Sion's path to the Final also. In the opening round against St Johnston, he ensured that the Co Donegal side were batted out of the match, with a sparkling 101. The first of his two hundreds in senior cricket, it included fourteen 4s, enabling Sion to post a formidable 295. He then took 3-31 as St Johnston fell 129 runs short of their target. He was at it again in the Semi Final, with six Eglinton wickets for 67 as the Co Derry side failed to chase down 215.

However 1947 had probably been his most memorable season. He took 120 wickets, having begun the summer, in the first League match, by scoring 80 and taking 6-19 v St Johnston. He was to shine in Sion's two Cup Final wins as they lifted both the NWCU and NCU trophies. Brigade were their opponents in the local competition in late July. Batting first Sion were bowled out for a seemingly inadequate 125, with paceman Charlie McNaul taking 5-36. Only John with a hard earned 56 had looked confident against a varied attack. He then spun Brigade out for 71, taking 5-23. The conditions were still difficult when Sion batted again, and John required all his considerable batting skill to help them post a total of 122. His share was 57. Brigade, needing 177, fell to spin again, though this time their undoing was the off breaks of Andy McFarlane. The NCU Final was a dramatic match, still talked about by dwindling band of who saw it, and by those, like this writer, who can only imagine what a marvellous contest it must have been. It is chiefly remembered for the batting of McFarlane and the fine bowling of Armagh all rounder Lloyd Armstrong, but John played a notable part also. Armagh began with 238, Reverend Ronnie Craig top scoring with a fine 82. However Sion responded with 318. McFarlane rolled back the years, showing what Ireland had missed for so long, hitting a magnificent 117. John was not far behind, however. He hit an equally memorable 87, defying Armstrong's wholehearted pace, to give Sion an 81 run lead. He and McFarlane then put on their bowling boots, and with three wickets apiece, left their team needing 126 for victory. As history has recorded, they got home by one wicket!

It was his 1947 form that earned John his solitary Irish cap against Yorkshire at Ormeau in July of the following year. He had already been seen in representative cricket for Ulster against Leinster and Munster and for the NWCU v NCU, though his form in these matches had been no more than useful. Strangely, he was picked as a batsman for the Yorkshire match. The spin attack was to be carried by the two off spinners Jimmy Boucher and John Hill with Eddie Ingram, now operating at medium pace more often than bowling his leg spin, able to weigh in if required. The side as originally selected would have been overloaded with slow men, but left armers Bobby Barnes and "Sonny" Hool had to withdraw. The weather was miserable cutting deeply into the two day match. There was time for Ireland to be bowled out for 153. The wickets were shared by Alec Coxon, who had opened the bowling for England v Australia at Lord's a few weeks earlier, and Ron Aspinall, later a first class umpire. Their pace was too much for the Irish batsmen. Though chosen for his batting, John was at No 8, below Hill, who - much as he would have fiercely denied it - was never more than a good tail ender. Presumably George Crothers, captaining Ireland in the last match of his distinguished career, had his reasons, but at this distance they are rather hard to fathom. In fact both the Johns, Hill and Flood, failed. Hill fell to Coxon "without troubling the scorers", while Flood, clean bowled by the same bowler having played a poor shot, was two runs more successful. After further rain, Yorkshire finished on 141-3. John had been able to remake the acquaintance of Yorkshire and England captain Norman Yardley against whom he had played when Yardley's regiment the Green Howards had been stationed in the North West during the War.

Later in the summer John played for Ulster against Derbyshire, again at Ormeau. The County were far too strong, winning by an innings and 13 runs. John did not bowl and, in his first innings, was run out for 0. He did rather better in the second, managing 12 before being stumped by wicket keeper George Dawkes off leg spinner Bert Rhodes for 12. Rhodes, originally a medium pacer, was to tour India with MCC in 1951/52, but play only three matches because of injury. Father of controversial paceman Harold Rhodes, he later became a well known Test umpire. John himself followed Aspinall and Rhodes into the white coat, becoming a respected umpire on the North West circuit.

Why did John only play once for Ireland? Several reasons could be advanced. Firstly, there was still a feeling in certain circles in Belfast and Dublin that cricket in the North West was not of the same quality as that plied elsewhere in the country. This calumny, finally put to rest by Scott Huey, had restricted Andy McFarlane's career, and, despite its clear disproving by Donald Shearer, had prevented several others from being capped. Secondly, John had several rivals. Apart from Huey who emerged as Ireland's Number 1 left armer in the 1950s, there were Barnes, who soon dropped out, Hool and Bowden, all top class left armers, to say nothing of off spinners Boucher and Hill. Out of all of these however only the great "JCB", a very different type of bowler, was clearly John's superior, as he was to any other bowler in Ireland - and a number elsewhere - at the time. John was also a better bat than any of them apart form Barnes. Finally, he did of course lose six years of potential international cricket to the War. To this observer, admittedly writing many years later and without any inside knowledge of selectorial decision making, it is hard to see that any of these reasons stand up. John Flood was surely worth at least a more extended trial and, even more surely, worth a bowl.