THE RAILWAY ROAD in St Johnston has always been synonymous with sport.
Long before Kildrum Tigers FC made it their home in the 1980s, St Johnston Cricket Club danced on the crease with some of Irish cricket’s top stars by the waters of the Foyle.
In 1934, the Railway Road bristled with activity of a different kind.
Passengers and merchants loaded and disembarked from the trains of the Great Northern Railway that stopped regularly in the village; during the summer months, hundreds of local fisherman swamped to the majestic shores of the River Foyle to earn their crust.
But in 1934, the men in the white of St Johnston Cricket Club upped sticks from their base at nearby Altaskin and moved to a new house that is still their home.
Time was when the edge of the cricket field and beyond was lined with boats. It led to the area being nicknamed ‘The Boathold’.
Somewhere along the line, it became ‘The Boathole’, a name still affectionately retained now.
Last year, St Johnston played in the North-West Premiership, but were relegated after putting up a strong fight.
Today, they begin life back in the Championship and there appears another summer of transition for the David Macbeth-captained outfit.
“The nucleus of the side is quite young once again, but we’re happy with that,” said Macbeth (above).
“Just as last year however we will have to wait a few weeks for one or two to return from college so we will need to tough it out for the first couple of games.
“Alan Macbeth will be back this year after surgery on an injury while we also believe that Andrew Fleming will be available a lot more over the coming months. That almost feels like two new players and we have also welcomed a couple of new faces from the Indian community that we will look at over the next few weeks”.
St Johnston start the new season this afternoon with an away game at Championship favourites Fox Lodge.
They do so without the services of Ryan Macbeth, Kevin Martin, Jassi Wallia and Khushpal Singh from last year’s panel, with the loss of Irish underage panelist Macbeth a big blow.
The underage structure at Donegal’s only cricket club has been steadily improving.
They could have Ryan Patton back in action, but that remains unclear and a summer of consolidation looks in store for St Johnston.
It is over 50 years since St Johnston won their first ever Senior Cup, when they overcame Donemana by 48 runs in 1959.
It was a contest that will be remembered for the oddity of two St Johnston players being knocked out during the game – Jackie Taylor being hit with a ball on the back of the head as he ran back to the wicket, and Hughie O’Donnell receiving a similar blow as he attempted a catch on the boundary.
St Johnston will always be in the annals as the first North West team to win the All Ireland Senior Cup.
The year was 1987. Unfancied St Johnston stepped out against Brigade – who had beat them well in a League dress-rehearsal a week earlier – more in hope than expectation.
But with Davy Dunne and Ivan Lapsley on song with the ball, St Johnston skittled their opponents out for just 93 runs – a total they would beat with considerable ease to re-write the history books.
The traditions remain and the struggle continues for a side again aiming to get back into the top flight of the North-West League.Tags: