A product of the Heywood youth system who went on to senior cricket and played in the remarkable 2009 T20 cup final victory where Heywood played with no Pro or overseas and all 11 players had played youth cricket for the club, Joey O’Neill has been a big part of Heywood life for many years. He has taken time out to look back on his happy memories at Crimble:
What were your first Heywood memories?
My earliest memory of playing for Heywood was for Bob Cross’ under 11s at Littleborough. I remember he made me captain that night, after I won the coin toss, Bob set the field, Bob picked the bowlers and the batting order and we won a close game. The toss was crucial that day.
For the seniors I remember being part of the Bobby D third team who went on to win the cup. The same season I had bowled a last over maiden to win a close game at Unsworth. Those were the days I could bowl 6 straight. Bob used to stand up to the stumps and would use everything but his gloves to stop the ball. That same game Mark Kenny learnt trying to shower in white boxers to keep some dignity was like using a chocolate fire guard.
My other memories were playing second team with David Fare, Rog, Wrighty, Wilkie and Hilts, joining in with red wine club. It was a good mixture of old and young and you really learnt a lot from the older generation, especially if you dropped a catch, Dave Fare’s hat got thrown on the ground more times than he got runs with the bat over them years.
What was your favourite game for the club?
The 20/20 final when we won at Clifton in 2009. All 11 players were all brought up through the junior ranks. After having a good few knocks on tour the week leading up to it, I opened the batting with Tommy H. Got a golden duck and didn’t bowl but it doesn’t say that on my medal .
Favourite away ground?
THE BARRACKS! Worcester, hands down.
In the CLL I always enjoyed playing at Ashton, short straight boundaries and any club with a balcony is always a winner in my eyes.
One of my least favourites was Radcliffe, it was either 30 degrees or miserable, no in between. The outfield was like running on the BMX track, and it is what cost me my bowling career, you never come back from a 15 ball over, some say it was similar to Steve Harminson in the 2006/7 ashes, just a bit slower.
Another bad time at Radcliffe was where they had a couple of ‘in game’ injuries, one guy tried to catch a skier and it went through his hands and knocked one of his front teeth out. His next visit was A&E. Being a youngster in an ageing 2nd team with the likes Fare, Wrighty, Rog, CK and Wilkie and after being already out I had to go on and sub field. When I went on I think they had dropped 4/5 catches at that time so they stuck me in at a closeish extra cover, 2 balls later Rog, well set in his 40’s drilled one to me, diving forward caught a screamer, safe to say he wasn’t happy, neither was Fare sat in the stands . Later on Fare, (not pinch hitting that game) tried to take a single to me at fine leg, he wasn’t happy and had a few choice words when I had a go and nearly run him out. I’m sure the cap got thrown on the ground and kicked.
Best Pro you’ve played with?
Best pro I’ve ever played with was Sherwin. One game I played with him sticks in my mind was Werneth away. That day I’m sure he got out for over 100 with 25 overs still to go. He could of easily got 200+ that day. That’s the day he refused their drinks and wanted his own “water bottle”, water being a loose term there.
Best amateur you’ve played with and against?
When playing for the first team, Bobby and Will always stood out as a different class. Growing up Tommy H was always head and shoulders above all others his and above his age group. When playing in the seconds, Mark Wright was great to watch and bat with, always calm at the crease.
Playing majority of seconds you got to play against of the likes of Dearden and Miskella from Littleborough and Punchard at Royton, they were always great to play and score runs against.
Best on field memory?
There has been so many but I would have to say simply just playing cricket every week with your mates. Growing up with a set of lads and girls that become your close friends. Mark Kenny was always great to have around the team, whether he was falling over benches whilst fielding or getting stuck in a folding football style chair at Walsden whilst looking over the wall into the river for the ball, it took two of us to lift him out.
Best off field memory?
The first tour to Worcester. What a week that was. Tom Blundell turning up with a carrier bag with his clothes for 4 days in Worcester. Giving Vinny Ball out in the first game walking across his stumps, again a few choice words he was not happy. He still likes to remind me it nearly hit his thigh pad.
Fare leaving his sun roof open over night when it was forecast rain. Luckily he had his towel to sit on for diving over the next few days.
Turning up to a ground after a night at Worcester’s famous “gay bar” (the sheriff was on top form that night) to a team going through a full warming up routine. We sat there nursing hangovers until the toss. Batting first their opening bowler was pretty sharp to say the least. Could of actually been their pro. Bobby facing bouncer after bouncer, ducking and weaving, clipped one to a deep fine leg for a single, CK at the other end with no lid wasn’t keen for that and continued to sit on his bat handle and sent Bobby back with him making 2 full runs.
Fare opening the bowling that day, bowling the first over to their pro. 2 balls later their pro back in the shed after he wasn’t expecting a left arm round, double bouncer and pea roller. Tactical masterclass and another win on tour. Later that night, John Farrer managed to clear a full pub with a single moment of flatulence.
The last day on tour after 4 nights of drinking and 3 games was by far the best. The Barracks! They didn’t have any beer on, (John was fuming), the showers were freezing, kit that had been worn for the past three days still sweaty from the day before and Grogie with the worse cricket undies in history, it would be my first ton for HCC and one I wouldn’t forget.
Growing up HCC was my life, I would be down there 6 days a week. I spent a lot of my early teens scoring and then mid-late teens playing and working behind the bar in winter. I would then spend other winter evenings playing darts and dominoes with Big H, Tom McGoldrick, Pete, Jack and Wilkie.
Staying over looking after the bonfire wood with Phil and Byrnie was always a fun night. Especially when Kev Dawson would ring the club at 4am flashing his lights at the gate trying to scare us.
Helping at Wood Cup finals, one year I was looking after the BBQ, I nipped to the toilet and left Mikey Grogan in charge, came back to the gazebo on fire, safe to say he’s never been let near one since.
It is a special place and as people and faces change it always welcomes everyone in.
- None Found