Spotlight on Ryan Eagleson
Ryan Logan Eagleson
Ryan Eagleson - Eagy to many - is a highly popular and outstandingly good all round cricketer. It is most unfortunate that an injury, just as he approached the height of his powers, should have robbed him of a probable career in county cricket and Ireland of a potentially great all rounder.
Standing six feet three high , he was, at his best an extremely lively fast medium. However this very attribute - height - was to cause some of his problems. His delivery put a tremendous strain on his muscles and resulted in stress fractures to his back, the bane of many fast bowlers.
Ryan's injury occurred at around the same time as that of England paceman Dean Headley. Dean never recovered. It is an indication of Ryan's great drive and determination that he did. Not only did he play again, but he regained his place in the Irish side and, though he had to remodel his action, was able to retain his lethal outswing. This has always been a main feature of his bowling and has accounted for many of his wickets, through wicket keeper or slip catches.
Batting, he is an upper order player at club level and probably should always have been lower middle on the international scene. His main strength has been described as being his cover drive, a stroke of power and elegance.
1993 was, in many ways, a breakthrough year. Not only, as is outlined below did he excel for Carrickfergus, but he was also very prominent at schools and age group level. A good bowling performance - 3-19 in the second innings of a drawn match - for Ulster Schools against the South at Muckamore gained him selection both for Ireland U 19 against Wales at Rathmines in early July and for Irish Schools against the ICU President's XI at Castle Avenue later in the month.
He had to cry off the latter match but was seen to good advantage against Wales in a match which Ireland, after being in control for the first two days, surprisingly lost on the third. They began by posting 267-9 declared with Ryan with 52 at 7 joining Ronan O'Reilly (70) in taking the lead among the run scorers.
When Wales batted he came on second change to return figures of 13-3-13-3, thus helping left armer Jan Cunningham secure a 145 run lead. Then Ireland collapsed to 31-5 before Gordon Cooke (50) and Ryan with 29 rescued them setting up a challenging declaration. However the last day saw no terrors in the wicket, as Wales cruised to a 6 wickets victory, Ryan, Cunningham and their team-mates all seemingly innocuous.
Ireland then took part in the U19 tournament in Denmark, Ryan excelling in the first match, taking 4-10 against Bermuda which contributed largely to victory. He was also prominent on the Ulster Schools tour of NW England which followed shortly afterwards. His 3-30,helped in the defeat of Nottinghamshire Schools - also away from home - in the first match, while later in the tour, he with 30 and Kyle McCallan with 54, showed their batting ability in a defeat by a strong Lancashire School side.
The following summer saw him in the Irish Development XI which took part in an International Youth Tournament at Bath. Those who had played in Denmark the previous year were available , unless they were in the Irish Schools side which was also in England, on tour, at the same time, and which had first pick. The tournament was thoroughly enjoyable with Ireland losing only one match, a semi final to a powerful New South Wales side. Ryan with a hghest score of 52 and 7 wickets was a distinct success..
Ryan will probably be best remembered for his performances for Carrickfergus which have been remarkably consistent and outstanding throughout his career. Having come up through the club's youth system, he headed both sets of averages in 1993, a feat which he was to become used to achieving.
In all - to the end of the 2011 season - he has scored over 7000 runs for the 1st XI, besides taking over 500 wickets. He has been the Player of the Year on 12 occasions, the first being in 1993, when he and McCallan were named Belfast Telegraph Young Players of the Year for the NCU area.
Ryan has carried off the Bowling Cup 5 times and the Batting one once. He captained the Club in 1999 and again between 2002 and 2010. An ECB Level 3 Coach, he was also Carrick's Director of Coaching between 2002 and 2006.
Few, except possibly the man himself, would contest the view that he is the main reason why Carrick, a Section 3 team in his first great season of 1993, are now in the Premier League. His best all round season thus far has been 2003 when he aggregated 898 runs at 64.14 and took 44 wickets at 10.95. His runs included an undefeated 101 against Derriaghy which remains his highest score in NCU Senior Cricket.
However he is clearly partial to the Queensway attack with innings of 100 and 91, both not out, in his meetings with them in 1996. He also made exactly 100, again undefeated against Lurgan in 1997. His best bowling came against Academy also in 1996, a season in which he took 49 wickets, when he returned analysis of 8.1-2-20-7. The only blot on this performance was that he sent down 7 wides!
The previous season he had taken 6-22 in 14 overs against Holywood. As recently as the 2011 season, respected cricket writer Alastair Bushe named him in his annual NCU Team of the Season.
Injuries and county calls reduced Ryan's possible appearances in Interprovincial cricket, where he was not quite the force that might have been expected. Nevertheless he had some very worthwhile matches, two of which may be referred to here.
In a rain ruined draw with South Leinster at Coleraine in 1995, Ulster Town racked up 242-7 before the elements intervened. Charlie McCrum, opening the batting, led the way with 75 but Ryan was not far behind. Exhibiting that famed cover drive, he finished on 58*. Later that same summer, he produced a fine all round performance in a losing cause against Ulster Country at Ballygomartin Road. Batting first, the hosts were bowled out for 139, Ryan topscoring with a gritty 45. He then did his best to avert defeat with 3-36 but this proved not quite enough to stave off a two wickets defeat.
Ryan's Irish career began that season when he was brought into the side after Ireland had suffered disappointments in the Benson and Hedges campaign. His 65 matches were to bring him 70 wickets and 380 runs.
He had greatly impressed Ireland's newly appointed coach Mike Hendrick - certainly an expert where new ball bowling was concerned - and was to show his class in the Nat West match with Yorkshire at Headingley where he and Mark Patterson surprised the county with their pace early on. Ryan made Michael Vaughan lift a tame catch to cover and then held a return catch to send back the doughty David Byas. When Mark had Australian Michael Bevan for 6, the county were 31-3, thereafter they gained control but Ryan had shown he could compete at a high level.
The following season saw him not only cement a place in the Irish side but also appear for Glamorgan and Essex in the 2nd XI County Championship. He by no means performed badly but was not persevered with by either. That season Ireland, who won both the Triple Crown and European Championships for the first time. Ryan was, reportedly, somewhat surprised to receive the Man of the Match Award against Italy, possibly having been given it for hitting two 6s in a whirlwind 22, but he was probably seen at his best against Scotland.
In the Triple Crown Match, he was the only Irish bowler to take a wicket - 3-34 - as the Scots successfully chased down an Irish score of 245-6. However in the first class match at Linlithgow it was his batting which took the eye. In the first innings he made 50* off 55 balls adding an unbroken 81 for the 7th wicket with Garfield Harrison. They were to the fore when Ireland batting again and needing 319 in 70 , had been reduced to 209-6. They took the score to 301 when, with 5 overs left, heavy rain ended the contest. Ryan was on 41 and Garfield 46.
In September1998, he was part of the Northern Ireland side which took part in the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. In a group which included South Africa and Barbados, they did as well as could have been expected, outplaying Bangladesh and making a good showing against the other two.
Ryan was prominent in this success. Against South Africa, when the Proteas chased down a rain adjusted target of 133 to win by 5 wickets, he had figures of 3-28 including Herschelle Gibbs and Shaun Pollock. Bangladesh faced a moderate NI score of 177 but were reduced to 4-4 by Ryan's opening burst and were all out for 63. He finished with 6-1-15-3.
The 1999 season seemed a most promising one for his future as it saw his best bowling figures for Ireland , when he took 4-59 in the Nat West trophy against Leicestershire. He removed opener Darren Stephens early on before returning to claim the wickets of wicket keeper Paul Nixon, always a most valuable scalp in limited overs cricket, future Test player Aftab Habib and Australian Mike Kasprowicz, still six seasons away from his epic, if unsuccessful, last wicket stand with Shane Warne at Edgbaston.
The season also saw Ryan in Derbyshire colours. In a 2nd XI Championship match with neighbours Nottinghamshire he had figures of 9-109 in the match, including a devastating 7-60 in the second innings which swept away the Trent Bridge batting and set up a 4 wickets victory. This led to two List A and one Championship appearances for the County side.
Against Durham in the National League, he had the wicket of a promising young all rounder called Collingwood, while in the other one dayer against New Zealand he had Test opening batsman Matthew Bell. In the Championship he continued his haul of Test men present or future by having the wicket of Lancashire - and future England and Surrey - leg spinner Chris Schofield.
However injury struck and he missed almost all the 2000 season. He did manage a return to the Irish side for the ICC Trophy in Canada in 2001, but he was probably not 100% fit at the outset of this unsuccessful campaign, and, having bowled well against the USA and Hong Kong , he was unable to play after the UAE match in Toronto in which he had taken a wicket in the first over.
His determination saw him back in the Irish side in the latter half of the 2003 season and into 2004, but he was unable, at this level to be quite the bowler he had been. He did however take 3-56 against Hertfordshire in a Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy match, better remembered for the batting of Gerald Dros and Andre Botha. Otherwise his best days in the national side had passed.
Ryan had spent the winters of 1997/98 and 99/00 in South Africa. With the consent of Hendrick he worked and trained with Paul McCrum and Northern Titans and Free State Eagles. He impressed greatly in top class club cricket both there and, later, in both New Zealand and Hong Kong .
He spent three seasons in Hong Kong playing for the Scorpions and Gap Ramblers and also coaching. His first two seasons were very successful and saw him part of the Hong Kong side in the highly regarded HK Sixes. His club cricket was played for Gap Ramblers on Saturdays and Scorpions on Sundays, the two seasons bringing him 2232 runs at 63.77 with 5 hundreds, highest 139, and 13 fifties.
He took 101 wickets at 14.52, with his best bowling figures a remarkable 7.2-5-8-6. His best match in the 2003/04 Sixes was against South Africa, who scored 68-5 off their 5 overs with Ryan easily the best bowler, conceding only 9 runs from his over besides taking 3 wickets, including Test and future Worcestershire and Kent batsman Justin Kemp. He then made 25* off 12 balls with one 4 and three 6s but his was not enough to pass the Proteas' total. The following year he took a leading part in the defeat of Kenya in the Plate Final with 1-19 followed by a quickfire 35 retired not out off 11 balls, three of which went for 4 and one for 6.
In September 2006 his time in the Island came to an end with his taking up of the post of Cricket Development Officer for the Northern Ireland CA with special responsibility for the NCU area. Here his work was outstanding, resulting in his being appointed Cricket Ireland's Talent Identification Officer in 2010.
Also working with Ireland at U17 and U19 levels, his overall excellence been recognised by his receiving the Sky Sports European Award for Outstanding Services and Contribution Cricket Coaching in March 2010. Injury may have deprived Ryan Eagleson of achieving all that had been hoped for in his playing career.
However, he still was far more successful on the field than many who went through their careers unscathed, while his work as a coach is a further reason while he will be long remembered both in Irish Cricket. and elsewhere.
He is justly profiled in Siggins and Fitzgerald "Ireland's 100 Cricket Greats."