Ossie Colhoun

The famous Irish wicket-keeper Ossie Colhoun gained 87 caps for Ireland, at one stage playing 77 consecutive games. He grew up in Sion Mills, where cricket was seen as a ‘religion’, and where the Herdmans Mill was a staunch supporter of the cricket club. This enabled a professional player being engaged to advance cricket in the area, and even in the early 1950s indoor nets were available in Sion Mills. Often people viewed cricket matches from the railway line and they had to move when a train was coming! Ossie’s international debut was against a Lancashire side at College Park, Dublin – Ossie had never been to Dublin before and didn’t know many of the players on the team. When he broke his laces in the dressing room, Noel Cantwell, the famous footballer, gave him replacements ‘compliments of West Ham United’. At one point in the early 1960s Ossie had an opportunity to play for Gloucestershire but nothing came of this. Ossie was renowned for being talkative when on the pitch – although he was never short of a word to say to batters it was never done to put people off according to Ossie. In his career he made 42 stumpings and had almost 150 catches. One of his most memorable stumpings was that of Sir Len Hutton. As a wicket-keeper Ossie did not like standing back to the bowling. He particularly admired the spin bowling of Dermot Monteith and Scott Huey – other Irish greats he admired were Ivan Anderson and Roy Torrens. Ossie played against such great international cricketers as Clive Lloyd, Colin Cowdrey, Richie Benaud and Gary Sobers – for Ossie Gary Sobers was the most naturally gifted player. At club level Ossie often opened the batting but he usually batted at number 11 for Ireland. For 25 seasons he was with Sion Mills but he also had more limited spells with the RUC and Brigade. On 2nd July 1969 Ossie participated in the famous Irish victory over the touring West Indian team at Holm Field, Sion Mills. In this one day single innings match the West Indians were skittled out for 25 runs and Ireland won by 9 wickets. Although many legends pertain to this victory, Ossie claims that the victory was due to the fact that the West Indians had previous experience of a hard wicket at Lords but there was a soft wicket at Sion Mills. For this match Herdmans had closed the factory, the ground was packed with 3,000 people, and the Irish victory featured on the 9 o’clock news with Richard Baker. Even today Ossie still reminisces about the match with Clive Lloyd. Ossie also vividly remembers the Ireland tour to the USA and Canada in 1973 – memories include the actor Raymond Burr (Ironside) attending a match in Los Angeles, and a memorable 9th wicket stand of 73 in Toronto with Ivan Anderson. Later in one match at Lords Ossie remembers ‘how unbelievable it was to be in the Long Room ’ and later meeting the famous Australian cricketer Keith Miller who was a ‘humble, lovely man’! On one occasion Ossie was able to play against his own wicket-keeping hero, Godfrey Evans. Even today Ossie has a great sense of enthusiasm and humour, and is truly one of Ireland’s cricketing greats.