Cricket: Curry’s fire still burning ahead of yet another new campaign
Decker Curry remains one of the most colourful, controversial and recognisable figures in Irish cricket. Tomorrow he starts his 32nd season as a player, determined to put behind him the off-the-field incident which threatened to end his career on someone else's terms.
It was on June 11 last year that he was allegedly involved in an altercation with Ireland international Andrew White in the Limavady clubhouse during a Bob Kerr Irish Cup tie against Instonians.
But the Limavady club and their star player have always protested his innocence and the 12-month suspension handed down by Cricket Ireland was halved on appeal.
He will be in the team to play Glendermott tomorrow.
A bust-up with then Ireland coach Ken Rutherford effectively ended his international career and 10 years later his club career was put on hold by that ‘incident’ much closer to home last June.
However, despite his enforced retirement, Curry is more determined than ever to extend his career, even at the relatively old age of 45.
“If I’d decided to take a break in my own time, I probably would not have come back, but now I’m hoping to play on,” he said.
“I still feel I have a lot to prove and am now looking at this as my second career,” he added.
Certainly, fitness will not be a problem.
He is actually fitter than he was at the start of last season and a daily five-mile walk and a 20-mile cycle ride most nights is a challenge which many younger sportsmen could not meet.
And he is also about to undertake a 50-mile charity cycle ride for the Lions Club in Limavady.
It undoubtedly helps that he has never smoked and doesn’t drink and during the cricket season his sole focus is on the sport he was such a natural at that he broke into the Donemana senior team at the tender age of 14.
For the next 12 years, Curry never missed a match for the all-conquering Donemana team which won 10 league titles, including back to back doubles in 1988 and 1989 — leading him into a fascinating fact.
“The only two captains to win back to back doubles in over 100 years of North West cricket live next door to each other,” said Curry.
“My neighbour is Raymond Mitchell, our captain in the ‘80s, and I captained Limavady (for whom he has played the last 20 years) to league and cup success in 1999 and 2000. I am the only player to have played in both teams.”
From the mouth of anyone else, that would be a boast but Curry has never played for himself. It is always for the team.
He is perfectly serious when he says: “There is no point in scoring 1,000 runs or taking 50 wickets (something he has done on numerous occasions) if we didn’t win the league!
“What good are they? I would rather score 600 runs and win a trophy.”
His international career, from 1992 to 2001, was a stop-start affair, mainly because of availability, and is a world away from the international squad of today.
“In my first stint with Ireland I was in a good Ireland team.
“But we had boys coming off night shifts and playing for Ireland. Today they are all professionals,” he said.
It probably explains — along with his commitment to club cricket — why he played only 50 times for Ireland, out of a possible 143.
Remarkably, despite his success as a big-hitting opening batsman, only one of his first 19 internationals was at the top of the order. His debut was, ridiculously, as a No 8.
“I came back in 1996, opened the batting and Ireland had their most successful year as an amateur side (winning the Triple Crown and European Championships).
“In 1997 (when he continued his prolific opening partnership with Andy Patterson) we were unlucky not to qualify for the World Cup,” he added.
What many cricketers and even football fans may have forgotten is that, despite his prodigious cricketing talent, Curry was good enough to play in a Bass Irish Cup semi-final for Coleraine.
“I played four years for Coleraine, and were one match from the Irish Cup final, but injuries hurt us before the game against Portadown and we lost 3-0,” he recalled.
Among his team-mates that day was future Northern Ireland international Steve Lomas.
Curry had joined Coleraine via Park and Tobermore after being snapped up by then player-manager Jim Platt.
Curry continued: “Jim wanted to see me and Sammy Shiels, so we played one half for Tobermore and the other half for Coleraine.
“That was on the Tuesday and on the Thursday I signed for Coleraine. With Marty Tabb unavailable, I was in the first team squad for Saturday. We beat Ards 4-0 and I marked Glenn Ferguson.”
But big names were nothing strange to Curry.
“As centre-half I played against Martin McGaughey, Stephen Baxter and even David Jeffrey when he came up for corners for Linfield. I enjoyed every minute of it,” he stated.
He must have because he even gave up cricket for a short time after joining Limavady, but it was Ireland’s participation in their first ICC Trophy in 1994 which ended Curry’s top level football career as the players were not allowed to play any contact sport before the tournament.
Football’s loss was cricket’s gain and, as he starts his 20th season for Limavady, there will be no more dedicated player.
He may not have got the result he wanted from the altercation with White — “I wanted to clear my name,” he insists — but it’s time to move on.
“I’m looking forward to a new season and hope I’m talking to you in September with 1,000 runs and 50 wickets — but only if I have a (19th) league winners medal.”