HISTORY OF THE CLUB
The Ulster Grasshoppers was formed in 1981 by a group of cricketers who wanted to play friendly cricket at home and abroad in the spirit of the game without serious competitive constraints. The motive was to fill a vacuum within cricket where players could travel and play in different countries and at the same time introduce some young players to the bigger cricketing world. The first tour was to South Africa during the apartheid years and it was an unparalleled success and laid a foundation that has stood the test of time.
The Grasshoppers has travelled the world with 17 major overseas tours and played a number of ‘local’ matches, primarily against overseas touring teams. The club has no ground, no clubhouse and no fixed abode, but its membership has been drawn from players all over Ireland with the occasional guest from abroad. The culture of the club has been consistent and overseas tours remain sporting, social, educational and entertaining. Above all, Grasshoppers tours have been fun and cricket friendships have been established all over the world.
John Elder, Graham Crothers, Dixon Rose, Phillip Billingsley and Simon Corlett were the principal organizers of the historic 1981 tour to South Africa with much appreciated help in South Africa from Kevin Skjoldhammer, the former North of Ireland player/coach. The squad also included several other Ireland internationals like Paul Jackson, Stephen Warke, Alfie Linehan and the inimitable JD “Dermott” Monteith, plus a number of excellent club players. It was probably the strongest touring squad in Grasshoppers history and stories still abound of cricketing excellence, off-field escapades, camaraderie and enjoyment. It established a spirit of cavalier cricket, which has remained an integral part of the club’s culture ever since.
Since 1981 the club has toured the world. South Africa has remained a huge favourite with six tours (1981/2, 1998, 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013) and three to Zimbabwe (1987, 1990, 1995). The Round the World Tour in 1989 was a huge undertaking while trips to Cyprus (1996) and La Manga in Spain (2007, 2011) less demanding. The club saw no barriers in spreading the gospel of Grasshoppers cricket and also toured South America (2001) and India (2009). There were also two trips to the Caribbean with the Barbados and St. Lucia tour (2005) and the Barbados and Antigua tour (2011).
OUTSTANDING AND VARIED MEMBERSHIP
Although the Ulster Grasshoppers evolved within a Northern Cricket Union culture it has largely dropped its Ulsterism over the years and has embraced cricketers from all over Ireland. These have included Ian Rankin, Paul Wallace and Billy Henderson from the North-West and Michael Halliday, Joe Byrne, John Prior and Dick Forrest from Dublin plus Peter Dineen and John McDevitt from Cork. Experienced and inexperienced cricketers have mixed freely on Grasshoppers tours and in addition to fielding some of the best cricketers to play for Ireland in the past 50 years, the club has provided a useful stepping-stone for aspiring young players, who have since moved up the representative ladder with aplomb. Amongst the club’s most distinguished Ireland players are Simon Corlett, Dermott Monteith, Alfie Linehan, Paul Jackson, Stephen Warke, Kyle McCallan, John Elder, and Chris Harte, with a solitary appearance from the great Ivan Anderson.
The club has also faced some of the greatest names in world cricket including former South African captain Roy McClean and New Zealand skipper John Reid. Current Ireland Coach John Bracewell will also be remembered for a swashbuckling century in New Zealand on the 1987 world tour. Other big names included Andy Flower, David Houghton, Willie Watson and Geoff Howarth.
No cricket nomads could exist for over 30 years without stalwarts at the helm and the Grasshoppers Club has been fortunate to have some of the best administrators in Irish cricket at the helm for over three decades. At the risk of leaving out some important people these include, but are not limited to, John Elder, Alan Waite, Graham Crothers, Neil Russell, Andy Clement, Sam Beckett and Dixon Rose. The club may lack the physicality of a formal location, but its permanency has been guaranteed by the commitment and vision of its members.
Long may it continue.