Age no barrier for devoted cricketer John McCormick on his 64th season
He may no longer be the first on Muckamore's Registration List but John McCormick insists on his name being submitted to the powers that be – just in case. John, the definition of a club man, is 71-years-old and he has already played on the main pitch at Moylena this year, for the 64th consecutive season!
McCormick's heyday was in the 1960s and early '70s when he played in four Senior Cup finals but his proudest possession is the league winners' medal from 1970 when Muckamore shocked the big boys by sharing the (then) Section One title with Waringstown, in those days the powerhouse of NCU cricket.
John's recollections of that Muckamore team show that not much has changed over the last 44 years.
"We came up in the '60s from nowhere to go right to the top and had about 12-14 years of what you would now call Premier League cricket. We had no superstars, the only international we ever had was Archie McQuilken (1961-67) but we had the attitude that if you stick together, play hard and enjoy yourself it is remarkable what you can do."
And that, in a nutshell, is also the John McCormick story which he tells with relish and a passion which the big name superstars will never match and may not even understand.
Probably the youngest ever boy to play in a (Under-15) Graham Cup side – "I played at the age of eight and eight months" – he made his 1st XI debut at the age of 13, in 1956.
"It was a Senior Cup match against Lisburn, the cup holders, who included Herbie Martin, Jackie Bowden and Raymond Hunter, the strongest team in the NCU those days.
"I played every year after that until I was 48 but was called up again when I was 60, to play at North Down, and we beat them," he proudly recalls.
"Brian Dunlop had a finger injury, he was the wicket-keeper at the time, and I was on the Seconds and Thirds in those days, had been scoring a few runs, and they picked me to play in the match. I stumped Peter Shields (the North Down captain), I'm proud to say, took a couple of catches but didn't score many, only nine I think.
"I played for the Fourths last year, but I only play now if they are absolutely against the wall.
"I refuse to play if there are any young fellows available, or even not so young guys, who have been about the club for 25-30 years and they still want to play. I would never step in the ways of guys like that who are the lifeblood of the club.
"Their game of cricket is every bit as important as those playing on the 1st XI. Every game is a big game. So whether it is a young, aspiring 14-year-old or a guy happy to play in the Thirds and Fourths, they are deserving of full recognition – none more than the other."
And McCormick (pictured) is proud of the standards that Muckamore have set and maintain, from the Firsts down to the Fifths.
"You need people like that. They may not be the best cricketers in the world but they understand the ethics of the game and maintain the same level as at the top level. It's no different. No-one will go out on the field unless they are properly dressed (in whites) or have the right attitude. If they don't like that or don't do that, they won't play for Muckamore."
McCormick is content to watch the 1st XI, home and away, but if he had his wish he would be playing every week and struggles to understand why any cricketer would want to do anything else on a summer Saturday.
"It now seems when you get married you are not allowed to play cricket anymore and then when they have babies they have to take time off. I don't understand that. I reared three boys but never missed a cricket match.
"In my day you didn't even go on holiday. Cricket was everything to you.
"I am told everyone is so busy nowadays. But not only had I children, I had a business, spending two or three days travelling to Dublin for most of my working life. My wife is a schoolteacher. I don't get it. The story doesn't ring with me.
"I played regularly until I was 65, got a hip replaced and that knocked me back. But I still look forward to every season like I did when I was 30. I want to be out there playing but my body won't let me."
It didn't stop McCormick maintaining his record of playing a cricket match every year since 1951 when he turned out for the Muckamore president's XI in a six-a-side game this month.
"I can live with that and if one day we have five teams to put out and we are one man short I have no problem putting my hand up and saying, 'I'll go'," adds John.
Just try stopping him!