Spotlight on Derek Heasley
Derek Heasley was - and remains - a batting all rounder of high quality. In the upper middle order - or sometimes opening - in club cricket and, usually, at No 6 for Ireland, he has always been an immensely valuable player.
His batting has been graphically described thus "He was a fearsome hitter of the ball, using his broad shoulders to good effect and giving wayward bowlers no place to hide." (Siggins and Fitzgerald Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats).
He has the further attribute at the crease - not always exhibited by batsmen of his inclinations - of being very difficult to dismiss. He sells his wicket dearly. His medium pace bowling remains distinctly useful. He rarely ran through a side, perhaps not being helped by the fact that he has often bowled, even for his clubs as late as fourth change, but he can always be relied on to pick up one or two wickets and never to let a batsman rest.
Having developed his game at Wallace Park High School, in company with Neil Doak, he was a member of the Irish side in the Youth Tournament at Winnipeg in Canada in 1991. He proved to be an important part of a successful team. Having made a second top score 22 out of 203-8 in the match against Denmark, he then took 2-33 opening the attack, helping his side to a nail biting 4 run victory.
In the next match, he did not bat as Ireland posted a challenging 238-4 against Bermuda. The total proved to be not challenging enough as Bermuda won by 4 wickets despite Derek weighing in with 3-49. He was again to the fore with the ball in a 7 wicket victory over Canada.
Opening the bowling he had 3-18 as the tournament hosts fell for 143, leaving the path clear for a straightforward Irish victory.
His career in club cricket has been long and varied and, typically, he is about to embark on a new challenge at an age when many cricketers are thinking of reducing their activities on the field of play.
A few highlights of his career in NCU and NWCU competitive matches must suffice here. In 2004, on the first day of the season, Lisburn, under his captaincy, travelled to Deramore Park to take on Belfast Harlequins.
The hosts lost dangerman Gary Wilson cheaply but managed the respectable score of 213-8 off their 50 overs. That score began to look an impossible target as the first three batsmen in the Lisburn order went for 0, 4 and 0 with the scoreboard reading 13-4.
Then Derek, having come in at 3-2, played an astonishing innings. Savaging - to put it mildly - the attack he raced to an a magnificent 146*. Only two other batsmen reached double figures, both scoring 11. Had resident No 12, Mr Extras not weighed in with a handy 25, even Derek's wonderful feat might have been in vain. As it was, Lisburn won by 2 wickets Derek had played the innings of the season, within a few hours of it starting.
He has, thus far played in four NCU Senior Cup Finals without ever being on the winning side. He came closest - and produced his best performance - in the epic tie with North Down at The Meadow in 1994.
North Down batted first and reached the promising platform of 123-3 before Derek took a hand. Returning figures of 12 - 0 - 37 - 4, he caused a middle and lower order collapse - taking his wickets in 20 balls - with the Comber side crashing to 160 all out. Lisburn also found batting difficult and were 68-4 when Derek and Richard Wiseman came together. They put on 60 in 14 overs. "For the first time in the day", as the Irish Cricket Annual puts it, " fielders were forced to retreat."
Eventually the Co Antrim side needed 206 to win and were reduced to 61-5 when Robin Haire took 3 wickets in one over including those of Derek (13) and Doak (19) who had begun to show signs of recovery even though all the runs in their partnership had come from Derek. He was thus reduced to a mere spectating role for the pulsating climax.
He has had rather more personal success in the Irish Senior Cup, now, of course, named in memory of Bob Kerr. We may note two matches in the 2009 season, by which time he was a major force with CIYMS.
In the Third Round CI faced a potentially powerful foe in Phoenix at Belmont. In a match which rain reduced to 42 overs they totalled 238-7. Derek lead the assault on the Dubliners' attack.
Batting for 80 minutes and facing 60 balls, he made a destructive 73 with seven 4s and two 6s, before being caught off former Irish opening bowler David Langford-Smith. Phoenix were dismissed for 150 which meant that CI had to travel to the Sperrins to play Donemana at The Holm, always a daunting undertaking.
Again the elements took a hand though whether they deprived the visitors of victory is debateable. CI batted first and totalled a very impressive 306-3. Opener Brian Cooper led the way with 130. After sharing in an opening stand of 120, he then put on 175 for the 3rd wicket with Derek who was in his most destructive mood. Batting for 73 minutes and facing 60 balls, he finished on 105*, having hit two 4s and twelve 6s. CI totalled 306-3.
Then the Sperrin rains arrived leaving the hosts 295 to win after Messrs Duckworth and Lewis had taken a hand. Donemana reached their target with 3 wickets standing.
Derek was also a force to be reckoned for Ulster Country and North at Interprovincial level. His highest score in the tournament came against Munster at Railway Union's Park Avenue ground in 1994.
Batting first UC made 254-7 with Derek leading the way making a robust undefeated 100. He failed to take a wicket as Munster went down by 46 runs. The following year he turned in a good all round performance against Ulster Town at Ballygomartin Road. The hosts were dismissed for 139 with Derek producing a very accurate bowling spell having figures of 7 - 2 - 7 - 2.
The 140 target proved no easy chase and UC were 59-5 when Derek came in. Showing uncharacteristic restraint, he guided his side home with 32*.
He was again to the fore as an all rounder in the North v South match at Greenisland in 1998. North racked up 289-8 off their 50 overs, with Neil Carson topscoring on 81 and Stephen Smyth making an elegant 56. Derek also reached the half century mark, scoring exactly50.
He then weighed in with the ball to take 3-38. In his 60 matches for Ireland, Derek scored 952 runs at 19.04 and took 65 wickets at 32.03. He hit four 50s. and returned one "5 for."
His debut against Surrey in an early season Benson and Hedges match at Eglinton was spectacular. " Derek Heasley" wrote Ian Callender in the 1997 Irish Cricket Annual, "announced himself on the international stage in an unforgettable manner."
Having come into the side at the last minute when Peter Gillespie failed a fitness test, he found himself at the wicket with Ireland reeling on 17-5, Chris Lewis and Martin Bicknell being the agents of destruction. He proceeded to make 36 at a run a ball, with six 4s, two in succession off Adam Hollioake, and a huge six off Richard Pearson an off spinner and Cambridge Blue. Surrey's third Test Match quick, Bernard Julien, accounted for him eventually after he had had the lion's share of a 45 run partnership with former school-mate Neil Doak.
The rest of the innings belonged to Doak whose undefeated 84 won him the Gold Award. Wallace Park had greatly distinguished itself. Derek's highest score for Ireland came in the run fest with MCC at Malahide later in the season.
In a match best remembered for a superb century by Angus Dunlop and almost equally memorable ones from Kyle McCallan and MCC's Paul Parker, Derek's contribution might easily be overlooked. It should not be. Ireland were at a crossroads on 127-5 when he came in the first innings to add 108 for the 6th wicket with McCallan. When he was dismissed by the left arm medium pacer David Thorne, he had faced 66 balls for his 73.
Drives and pulls brought most of his three 6s and twelve 4s. He hit a powerful 34 in the second innings as Ireland sought quick runs for a declaration. MCC eventually won by three wickets thanks to Parker and some lax Irish fielding but Derek, who had gone wicketless in the first innings, had figures of 13 - 3 - 32 - 3 in an impressive spell which included the wicket of the century maker.
He was to hit three other fifties for Ireland, one of which was instrumental in building a winning total in a Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy match. This was the game against the Hampshire County Board XI at a the - at that stage still under construction - Rose Bowl in late summer 2001, a second round match for the 2002 competition.
He came in when Ireland at 132-6 were, despite a fine knock from Andre Botha - in some danger of losing their way against a side made up of even more part time cricketers than theirs. Derek ensured that there would be no simple target to chase. Reaching 50 in 46 balls, he faced 50 balls in all, striking three 4s and four 6s to reach an undefeated 66.
Together with Paul Mooney he added an unbroken 61 for the 8th wicket. Mooney gave him the bowling where possible but himself made 13 off 20 balls, Ireland's 241-7 proved more than enough for victory.
Three years earlier Derek had hit a typical 71 against MCC at Lurgan's Pollock Park ground. Again, he came in with Ireland in a difficult position - 109-4 on a good wicket having won the toss in fine weather. Stephen Smyth was already batting sublimely and they added a Heasley dominated 114 for the 5th wicket, beating a 74 year old record against MCC for that wicket. Derek faced 67 balls and hit 10 fours, Smyth reaching an elegant century. Eventually the match was drawn with Ireland running out of time in which to bowl the visitors out.
Derek had made a half century in the ICC Trophy Semi Final against Kenya in Kuala Lumpur the previous year. This was a must win match if Ireland were to qualify for the 1999 World Cup In England. They fell 7 runs short needing 216 Again a late replacement, he came in at 88-4 after a rather slow stand between Neil Doak and Justin Benson.
Derek was hardly the man to hang around in such circumstances. While he was a the wicket 90 runs were added to the total. His share was 51 which came in 75 minutes off 48 balls with two 4s and four 6s. The consensus was that had he come in earlier or stayed for another over or two, the result might well have been different.
As a bowler, he had one "5 for" against Papua New Guinea in the Canada hosted ICC Trophy of July 2001. This was not one of Ireland's most memorable series and he was not alone in failing completely to justify his selection. However his bowling against PNG was a truly memorable performance. Coming on fourth change, he took a wicket in each of his first three overs, his first removing opener Uda who had made 43. Some thought the lbw a trifle high but this did not concern Derek and his team-mates. Rested after bowling 6 overs 3-19, he returned at the other end and, having gone for 6 runs off the first four balls of his 7th over, took wickets with his fifth and sixth ball to finish with figures of 7-1-25-5. The paltry PNG total of 146 was then made look even thinner as Dekker Curry swept Ireland to victory with devastating not out 95.
Derek also played two good, if rather restrained innings for Ireland in the following year a fighting 26 against Nottinghamshire in a Third Round C&G; match at Castle Avenue which, in partnership with Kyle McCallan, rescued Ireland from the prospect of oblivion and a 38 against Italy in the European Championship match at The Green.
Again batting with McCallan, he ensured that Ireland were able to post a total beyond the visitors' reach. However he did little with the bat in the other matches that season having an aggregate of only 95.
At the end of the summer he announced his retirement from representative cricket. We should also note that he was one of the Northern Ireland side that took part in the only cricket tournament so far staged in the Commonwealth Games - at Kuala Lumpur in 1998. Perhaps T20 cricket may be seen in the future. Derek and his team- mates played 50 over cricket against Test Match opposition. They found the going hard but Derek had two minor successes with the bat. Against South Africa he top scored with 19 as Northern Ireland totalled 89-5 in a rain affected match. He then held up South Africa's pursuit of a revised target of 133 with 3 overs for 10 runs and by catching Jacques Kallis off Paul McCrum. He also made 11 against Barbados, one of only three double figure scores in a score of 120-7.
In December 2010 he accepted a post at Lurgan as player coach which will be a fresh challenge. Already a Level 2 coach he wishes to advance to Level 3 and will certainly have the opportunity, working with both youth and the elite squad at Pollock Park. Few who have followed what Lurgan chairman Graham Hunter termed Derek Heasley's "illustrious career" will doubt that he will both relish and rise to the challenge.
He is profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats"