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Robin Haire biography
Robin Samuel Haire
Robin Haire was a highly talented, versatile and utterly determined cricketer. He began his career as a slow left armer who could also bat a bit. Like the great Wilfred Rhodes, he gradually bowled less and less and became instead a very good upper order batsman, though, unlike the famous Yorkshireman, he did not return to bowling in the evening of his career.
An outstanding cricketer at Regent House Grammar School, there are some who claim to have been the best ever schoolboy player at that well known cricket academy, he gained not only School and age group representative honours, but also selection for Ulster Town at senior interprovincial level, besides establishing his place in the North Down side which, apart from his brief spell with Downpatrick, he was to hold for three decades.
He had three seasons as a member the Ulster Town side in the U19 Esso Cup competition. His best bowling figures came in 1978, his first year in the team when he took 4-25 against a strong Ulster Country batting line up, restricting the visitors to 189 all out despite 53 from Jim Patterson and 48 from Robbie Dennison.
In 1980, however, he was described as one of Town's "outstanding performers" with the bat, helping them to a deserved second place in the table. Against North West at Limavady he topscored with 43, but lacked support. Town could only reach 144 all out and were unable to prevent their hosts winning by 9 wickets.
A month later, however, Robin led the way in a 7 wickets win over Munster at Ormeau. The visitors were dismissed for 142, only Peter Dineen (48) causing much trouble. Then Robin removed any possibility of an upset by hitting a stirring 70, setting a convincing victory.
Unfortunately, he achieved little in two seasons in the Irish School XI, though it must be said that rain prevented either him or his team-mates from realising their full potential in two of the three matches played. Against Wales at Cresselly in 1979, he was out for 0, batting at 8, in Ireland's first innings of 200 which was built around a dominating 102 from Ivan McMichael. Robin then had 2-48, claiming the only two wickets to fall as Wales declared behind. With Ireland also closing their second innings, Robin had no chance to redeem his batting failure. The match ended in a draw with Wales, chasing 250, on 201/8, Robin, allowed only 7 overs, going wicketless.
The following year's match was almost completely washed out, before Ireland crossed the Severn Bridge to play the English School at Bristol. He had one first innings wicket, but rain again took away much of the playing time and the match was drawn. He had also been a member of the Ireland U19 side in the 1979 Youth Tournament in Canada. Here he had 2-42 in a defeat by Bermuda and, in keeping with the rest of his team-mates, generally impressed by his enthusiasm and quality of his cricket.
He will, of course, principally always be remembered as North Down cricketer, his feats at The Green and elsewhere, being little short of remarkable. He won the Club's Batting Cup on seven occasions and the Bowling Cup three times. It is worth noting that for two successive years - 1986 and 1987 - he carried off both awards.
As a batsman he proved highly adaptable, the ideal player for most situations. He passed 700 runs in both 2000and 20001. He also had four spells as captain for a total of nine seasons. Leading the side for the first time in 1982, he was one of the youngest ever captains in NCU senior cricket. Ian Shields, who played with Robin for almost his entire career noted that at this time he had a "confidence and maturity beyond his years."
As a captain and player Shields felt that Robin's manner sometimes upset people but noted that "over many years he won wide respect throughout the game." He was "a born leader who loved the challenge of captaincy." He was a man of iron nerve and highly competitive spirit. These qualities were never better seen than in the NCU Challenge Cup semi-final against NICC at Comber in 1991. The competition was then still a two innings affair and when the last ball came to be bowled the Comber side, set 242, and needed six to win. The coolest man on the ground - probably in both the traditional and modern sense of the word - Robin flat batted the ball for a straight "maximum "powering North Down to the Final against Woodvale.
In that match, the notorious "Professionals' Final", they were again victorious with Robin, as captain, deservedly lifted the Cup. He hit two hundreds in Cup cricket, an undefeated 104 against Laurelvale in the first round in 1994, when North Down swamped the opposition, winning by 177 runs with Robin's ton being followed by a devastating 6-8 from Paul McCrum.
His other century in the competition came during his brief sojourn with Downpatrick, where he had gone following a dispute at The Green over the policy of importing players. Playing at The Meadow under his old friend Jim Patterson, Robin hit a man of the Match 126 in the first round against Donacloney in 1997, going on to play a useful part in Downpatrick's Cup Final victory. However it was not long before he was back at The Green once more with, as we have already seen, highly successful results.
Eventually a heart attack was to force him to take a spectator's role, the Haire name now, of course, being carried on by the deeds of his sons. At interprovincial level, he was a member of the Ulster Town side for almost twenty years. Winning selection for his slow left arm bowling, he developed into one of the side's key batsmen, besides leading them on several occasions.
His best bowling figures were achieved against the North West at Eglinton in 1983, when he took 6-26 to bowl the hosts out for 115, thus setting up a 9 wicket victory. His haul included the scalps of Ray Moan, Tommy Harper and Junior McBrine, so was a truly match winning one.
As a batsman, he might be seen as somewhat of a late developer but, with several useful twenties, he steadily moved up the order, and was to pass 90 on three occasions, though he never reached the "coveted three figures." Cruelly he was twice run out with the target in site; on both occasions Munster were the opposition.
At Phoenix in 1991, the South Easterners ran up a formidable 277 and had Town on 65-3 before Robin took a hand. Adding 179 for the third wicket with Jim Martin, he reached 99 before he was dismissed. The following year at Eglinton saw him guide his side to another three wicket win after a Ted Williamson hundred had enabled Munster to post 269. This time Robin reached 85 before Munster got him again. Two years later he was 91* against North West at Ballygomartin Road when the innings was closed on 288-7, NW, however, batted consistently to win by 5 wickets.
1994 saw a high scoring draw with North Leinster at Castle Avenue. This time Robin fell two runs short after adding 145 for the third wicket with Paul Linehan.
Robin made only three appearances for Ireland, a selection decision which puzzled many people beyond the confines of Comber cricket. All of his matches were played on the Zimbabwe tour of early 1986 for which he had richly deserved selection. His best performance came on debut against Matabeland Country Districts, a match which his and Patterson's contributions did much to win. After Jimbo had bowled the hosts out for 85, Ireland faltered until Robin came in at the fall of the sixth wicket and, as John Elder reported in The Ulster Cricketer, "marked his first Irish appearance by playing the best of all and top scoring with 45." Hugh Milling and Patterson then bowled the home team out again and Ireland went on to win by 10 wickets.
Robin did little in his other two cap matches though he was the most economical bowler against The Stragglers as a teenager named Hick played the first of two remarkable innings against the Irish side. The extent of the carnage may be judged from the fact that Robin's "economical" figures were 9 - 0 - 46 - 0. He also played in the non-cap game against Zimbabwe Schools, a powerful side for their ages. Ireland owed their victory to some arm chancing hitting by Robin (26*) and John Prior who were, in turn, aided by "some incredible dropped catches."
Unfortunately Robin Samuel Haire was never to play for Ireland again. In these days of what many would consider more consistent and enlightened selection policy, he would probably have had more chances to prove his worth.
As it is denizens of The Green, The Meadow and elsewhere will long remember his supreme dedication to the game. As former international umpire and seasoned observer of the NCU scene, John Boomer, commented to this writer, "Robin played the game hard and never gave up trying to win."
NB: I am particularly indebted to Ian Shields' "One Shot More... For The Honour Of Down."
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