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How the Harrison family still inspire Waringstown after more than 50 years

Following decades of success, Garfield looks back at legacy he and his brothers built

Fond memories: Garfield Harrison
Fond memories: Garfield Harrison
Howzat: The Harrison brothers (from left) Ian, Garfield, Barry, Roy, Jim and Deryck in their playing days with Waringstown

By Ian Callender

Forty years ago, Waringstown played Woodvale in the NCU Challenge Cup final at Downpatrick. The team consisted of six brothers, a brother-in-law and a nephew. It was the Harrison dynasty at its height.

Never before or since has one family so dominated a line-up and with it came unparalleled success. Between 1967 and 1993, Waringstown won two Irish Cups, 17 league titles and played in 16 Challenge Cup finals and won them all. In those 27 seasons, they were trophyless in only three of them.

Since then, Waringstown have won a record six Irish Cups and the Harrison legacy lives on with the Roy Harrison Pavilion at The Lawn.

"Roy deserves most of the credit," says his youngest brother, Garfield. "He has been the father figure, certainly for me, and he was the one who pushed us all. Mind you, there was nothing else to do in Waringstown, it had a cricket ground, one shop and a pub.

"My dad started it all. He wasn't a great cricketer, he played for Waringstown 2nd and 3rd XI. Mum did the teas and when I was barely two I was at The Lawn with a bat in my hand.

"When I made my debut for Waringstown in 1976, Davy Dennison, another future international, and I were batting 10 and 11. We never got in, and not a chance of bowling. In fact, we were afraid to speak. Michael Reith and Ivan Anderson were in the team and along with 'Snow', as they called Roy, it was intimidating for the youngsters.

"In that side, the top five were Roy, Reith, Jimmy, Ivan and Deryck followed by Barry and Ian. My brothers had all been playing since 1967 and we just kept on winning. The rest of that cup final team was Eddie Bushe, who married my sister Joan, Philip Heyburn, who was my eldest sister Betty's son, and Clark Cousins."

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Between them, the players in that team would go on to win 301 Ireland caps, including Roy, Jimmy and Deryck, with Garfield, who would give way to Ivan Anderson as the best player to come out of Waringstown, playing 118 times between 1983 and 1997.

But it was an unexpected introduction into the international side for him, and it was all down to brother Roy.

"One season we lost a couple of opening bowlers and Roy looked around and said to me, 'You are opening the bowling'. I said, 'But I bowl spin' and he said, 'We haven't any opening bowlers so you have a go'.

"So I had a go and it just clicked. Him and I opened the bowling, Anderson bowled spin and Reith bowled his medium pace inswingers.

"After a season or two, Ireland were playing Worcestershire in Rathmines and they had four or five cry-offs. I think Roy Torrens, John Elder and Harry Cook were all injured, and they came to me.

"So I was picked by Ireland as an opening bowler. I shared the new ball with Simon Corlett, did alright but I top scored in the second match (the following day) with the bat and it went from there. My bowling steadily declined, this long run-up was hard work so I went back to spin."

Garfield ended up with more than 2,700 runs and 140 wickets for Ireland and was last year inducted into the Cricket Writers of Ireland Hall of Fame.

But while Roy would say the Waringstown team in the 1970s which won 16 trophies, including six league and cup doubles, was the best, Garfield contends the 1992 'Dream Team', which won the treble - league, Challenge Cup and Irish Cup - under his captaincy was the "best club side I played in".

"We had Paul McCrum opening the bowling with Alan Nelson, first change was Noel Nelson, plus Alvin Spence and myself, all Ireland internationals. We also batted deep and the side had everything. The '70s team were a special batting team but their bowling wouldn't have been the strongest."

Although Garfield was by the 1990s the only brother still playing, the next generation of Harrisons was coming through with Shane, son of Jimmy, opening the batting and bowling "left arm grenades" with Simon, Barry's son, and Johnny Bushe, who would win 29 Ireland caps, the next in line.

Today, Roy, who celebrated his 80th birthday last month, still supervises the ground and had the honour of being Cricket Ireland president in 2006, Jimmy has been living in Spain for the last 10 years with his wife, Deryck still comes to the cricket as does Ian, who like Garfield is playing a lot of golf, while Barry is a "cricket nut" and never misses a match at The Lawn.

Garfield has a new string to his bow, as of last month, which is keeping him involved at international level.

"Heatley Tector, who directs the live stream of the big matches in Ireland, asked if I was coming to the Irish Cup final between Waringstown and Pembroke and said, 'Would you like to do a bit of commentary?'. I said, 'I would love to, although I mightn't be very good'. I really enjoyed the day (despite Waringstown's defeat) and he asked me back for the Tri-Series involving Ireland, Scotland and Netherlands in Malahide this week."

So, what does he make of the new-look Ireland T20 team?

"The team we saw on Tuesday looked very special, hopefully something big is ahead, full of young attacking batsman with all the skills, and a good amount of all-rounders," he said. "This is a power game and they showed a lot of power. They are also athletic and while the bowling will have to improve, Rome wasn't built in a day."

The question that is invariably asked of 'old cricketers' is would they have preferred to play today with all the opportunities of travelling around the world. Garfield doesn't shirk the answer.

"I'm happy with the way my career went," he said. "I wasn't good enough to be a professional, but we didn't have the opportunity. When you weren't working you were practising or playing cricket. I'd love to have been a full-time professional, it certainly improves your game."

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