Jim Ganly: batting all rounder who ran fielders ragged
James Blandford Ganly
Jim Ganly was a remarkable all round sportsman. As a cricketer, he was a batting all rounder. Rather slightly built, in his playing days, and of average height, he was, as a batsman, very quick on his feet and a predominantly front foot player. Pat Hone recalled him as, "A free forward batsman and a big hitter of lofted drives." He was, said the Leinster Cricket Annual 1941, "addicted to tremendous lofted drives." His speed between the wickets was legendary, together with George McVeagh, he ran many fielding sides ragged. He was also a more than useful bowler at a lively fast medium, though, for both club and country, his bowling tended to be under used unless he was captain. His quickness on his feet and hand to eye co-ordination, also made him an international tennis player, but, away from cricket, he was best known for his deeds on the Rugby field which brought him twelve Irish caps at wing or centre.
At St Columbas, he was three seasons in the XI, being captain in the final year, 1921. Legend has it that the College authorities gave him detentions on Saturdays to insure he played for school rather than country. Unfortunately, this can probably be dismissed as a Cardus type fiction. Jim did not play for Leinster until 1921 so would hardly have been picked for Ireland in 1920. The only match for which he is likely to have been considered in 1921 was his debut game against Scotland, which was in August, by which time he had left school. There is no indication of his having been considered for the tragic Military of Ireland match in June.
A possible reason for the legend may be that St Columba's refused him leave to play club cricket. When he did burst upon the Leinster League scene as a teenager in 1921, he hit 46 and 73 in his first two innings. At Dublin University the following summer, he found the going rather harder, but, against Civil Service in Phoenix Park gave an indication of what was in store for many hapless Dublin bowlers. He made 132 in even time, his lofted straight drives accounting for most of his four 6s and eight 4s. However when bowlers dropped short his pulls and square cuts proved just as effective. The following year, he won the Marchant Cup for the leading batsman in Leinster cricket, plundering 502 runs in the short University season at an average of 45.63. This included three consecutive 50s. Civil Service again suffered this time in College Park. He smashed a 74 minute 105, with the same boundary tally as the previous summer. At the end of the term, he left the University, and, apart from joining his student team-mates on a somewhat disappointing tour of England the following summer, was to play for Leinster CC until he crossed the City and River to join Phoenix in 1933.
For the Rathmines side, he scored 3135 runs at 34.83, including six centuries. His seventeen 50s, included scores of 96 and 94, the latter being reached twice. Two of these were doubles, he remains the only player to achieve this feat in the Leinster Senior League, and, unless limited overs matches are abolished, is likely to remain so. He won the Marchant Cup again in 1926, hitting 614 runs at 61.40. That season saw three remarkable innings in two consecutive matches: against Phoenix at Rathmines he followed a first innings 86 with a rumbustious 108*. His next innings, also against Phoenix saw him race to an undefeated 155. Hundreds in consecutive innings, including a nostalgic but hurricane 203 against the University, also came the following summer, but after another hundred against the luckless "Service" attack in 1928, his most famous innings came in 1929. This was in the League Final v Phoenix at Rathmines. He batted a mere two hours, striking six 6s and thirty nine 4s to race to a career best 232. He moved to Phoenix in 1932 and was never so prolific again, though, on occasions, all the old mastery returned. A 50 minute 100* at Observatory Lane in 1936, with four 6s and eleven 4s, reminded his old teammates of what they were missing, while in 1937 came his final two League hundreds again in consecutive innings. Each took only an hour. At Phoenix, Clontarf were put to the sword as he straight drove and square cut eight 6s and the same number of 4s, on his way to 100*. Then against Civil Service (who else?) he hit seven 6s and twelve 4s in making 113.
His bowling had also had its moments. He headed the Leinster CC bowling averages in 1928 and, had it then been established, would have carried off the Samuels Cup for the province's leading all rounder, adding 296 runs to his tally of wickets. Two other League bowling feats are worthy of note: 3-3 at Rathmines in 1925, with a 70 in the same match, being topped by 3-2 in 1934. The opponents on each occasion were, it almost goes without saying Civil Service. 1937 he played a key role in securing the Leinster Senior Cup for Phoenix, taking 4-22 in the Final v Dublin University.
For Ireland in 25 matches, he scored 831 runs at 19.79 including six 50s. These figures probably do not reflect his true ability at his level, but, like some of his contemporaries, he suffered from inconsistent selection policies and from having no set place in the batting order. His bowling was, as suggested above, somewhat under used, leaving him with 9 wickets.
His first half century for Ireland came in his fifth match, having begun, in his first outing, with a duck! Now against Scotland at College Park in 1925, he batted at 8 and failed in the first innings, being bowled by leg spinner Alex Forrester for 3. Quick runs were needed when he batted again, possibly playing for his place. He obliged by dominating an unbroken 7th wicket stand of 96 with JG Aston. Though missed in the 40s, as was Aston, Jim reached 50 in thirty five minutes and was undefeated on 62 in fifty at the closure. The partnership set up an Irish win. The following summer he led the side in a drawn match against Wales at Ormeau, best remembered for the double hundred by the Welsh captain Norman Riches, who was on the field throughout the match. Ireland faced the possibility of defeat when the second innings started having conceded a big deficit on the first innings. Jim, at 4, showed that attack was the best form of defence. His 58, top score, came in 65 minutes. His best match as a batsman for Ireland came later that summer against MCC in College Park, though the captaincy was, once again, in the hands of Bob Lambert. Batting at 6, Jim was at the wicket for an hour and a half, striking thirteen 4s, mostly with straight drives and square cuts, in his 83, which was to remain his highest score for his country. He put on 102 for the 6th with David Pigot. Their stand was the main reason for Ireland reaching 270 and, eventually gaining a 139 run lead. Jim was again to the fore in the second innings with a belligerent 68 including twelve 4s, but too much time was lost to gain a result. Play on the second day, Monday, was delayed until 2.30 as a mark of respect following the assassination of the Irish Free State's Minister of Justice, Kevin O'Higgins, gunned down on his way to Mass on the Sunday.
1927 saw two further fifties, one in uncharacteristic mode against Scotland, taking 150 minutes. This match ended in a draw, with Ireland, with wickets in hand, falling just short in a run chase. In the second innings, Jim, on song, was run out for 25, attempting a third run, a call too far even for him. His dismissal probably decided the match. His other fifty was a more typical effort, in a rain affected two day drawn game with MCC at Lord's. MCC made 173 to which Ireland replied with 277-7 before stumps were pulled up. Batting at 4, Jim reached 60 in 90 minutes with one 5 and eight 4s, adding 58 for the 3rd with George McVeagh. He was dismissed by an interesting combination c Rait-Kerr b Cartwright. Rowan Rait- Kerr, was a Co Wicklow born Army officer who served in India for many years. In 1936 he became Secretary of MCC and was largely responsible for the redrafting and content of the Laws of Cricket produced in 1947. He wrote a book about the Laws' history and development, still by far the best on the subject. "Buns" Cartwright was an Oxford Blue and a lively fast medium bowler. Never married, he made up for this, according to the late Brian Johnston, by frequently travelling Europe in the company of women who were.
Jim captained Ireland on eight occasions, winning two, including his last match in charge v The Catamarans, a team of Indians resident in Britain, in 1929. However his most memorable match as captain was undoubtedly that against the West Indies in College Park, the previous year. The hero of this epic match, still the only first class victory for Ireland over a Test playing nation, was McVeagh with a brilliant second innings hundred, which he followed with four catches, which Jim thought, "if anything... more important than his batting." Jim had been "surprised to receive a letter asking me to captain the Irish side," and played a key role himself with scores of 43 and 31, both of which stemmed collapses and without which McVeagh's heroics would have been impossible.
His last innings of any consequence for Ireland was a fine 43* v Sir Julien Cahn's XI at College Park in 1930. Only Jim and McVeagh showed any notion of how to deal with the leg spin and googlies of Walter Robins, later to captain England and, still later, to be an imaginative but irascible Chairman of selectors. "Robbie", one of the few to be counted among Don Bradman's personal friends, was a very good bowler, who took 6-19 in Ireland's first innings on this occasion and 5-60 in the second, when, though falling more cheaply, Jim again showed his ability to read the Robins variations. His reward for his skills was to be dropped from the Irish side, to reappear, without success against MCC in 1934 and New Zealand in 1937. He retired from all serious cricket in 1939.
Jim was, as already mentioned a good tennis player and a fine Rugby three-quarter. Playing his club matches for Monkstown, he scored seven tries in his twelve Irish appearances, with two in a match twice; the first instance being against Wales at Lansdowne Road in 1927/27, the other the following season against France at Ravenhill. In that season he gained two caps in the centre, against Wales at the Arms Park and Scotland at Murrayfield, scoring a try on each occasion.
After retiring from his successful auctioneers and cattle dealers in the late 1960s, Jim settled in Oughterard, where on 22 July 1976, he went out shooting and was found in nearby woods, dead with his shot gun by his side. The coroner's verdict was accidental death.
A short obituary of James Blandford Ganly appeared in Wisden 1978, while he is justly included in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats"
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