The ashes of Noel Cantwell, one of Cork and Ireland’s greatest sportsmen, are to be scattered on a cricket pitch at the Mardyke close to where he was born.
On Friday, 13th April 2018, Noel Cantwell’s daughters will bring his ashes to the Cork County Cricket Club grounds on the Mardyke, where his all-round sporting prowess first started to shine. Cantwell batted for his country seven times and went on to play international soccer, winning 36 international caps and scoring 14 goals with the Republic of Ireland.
He also played rugby, but is probably best known for captaining Manchester United. Cantwell also played with West Ham United and joined Manchester United in 1960, making 121 league appearances with them; winning two league titles and an FA Cup winner’s medals.
Noel Cantwell died in 2005, aged 73, and his ashes were kept by his wife, Maggie, at their home in England. She died just before Christmas and their daughters, Kate and Liz, requested that his ashes be scattered at the Cork County Cricket Club.
Although his opportunities on the cricket field were restricted by his soccer commitments, Noel, and his brothers, Frank and Gerry, were one of a number of families who grew up in the late 1940s and 1950s in and around the Mardyke area and who became leading lights in Cork cricket focused on the Mardyke. Others from this era included Jim and Tom Kiernan, Pat Dineen, Jim Fitzgerald, Con Odlum, Danny Duggan, Noel and Dermot Giltinan and Billy Bradley to name but a few.
The three Cantwell brothers played their club cricket with Cork Bohemians, played with Cork County in friendlies against Dublin, Northern Irish and English opposition and all three played for Munster in Interprovincial matches in this period. Cork Bohemians were probably the dominant club side in Cork and Munster (pictured below) in this period winning the Senior League on six occasions in the 1950s. Frank also played in the South v North fixture in 1952 which was effectively an Irish final trial but only Noel would go on to play international cricket for Ireland.
Noel is pictured below with the Munster Cricket side at the Mardyke on 25th May 1951.
Noel Cantwell was a left handed bat and a right arm medium paced bowler. Contemporary accounts describe him as being a fluent stroke maker and a brilliant fielder. While Noel himself downplayed his ability as a bowler, he is noted as “having the habit of taking wickets at club level when most needed”. Noel Cantwell played five times for Ireland in the period 1956 to 1959. Of the relatively few matches played by Ireland in that period (generally three or four matches per year), quite a few were played in late August or September when his soccer commitments would have ruled him out of contention for selection.
In 2015, a laneway was named after the sporting legend near the Mardyke. The ceremony was attended by Roy Keane, FAI chief executive John Delaney, and rugby legends Tom Kiernan and Barry McCann.
Councillor Mick Finn said after the ceremony that he spoke with Cantwell’s daughters, who expressed the wish to bring his ashes to Cork. They decided to follow through with the idea after their mother died.
“It’s fantastic that a Cork son will finally be returning home for the last time,” said Mr Finn. “It was fitting to name the walkway after somebody with such achievements and it was fitting that Roy Keane was there on that day because Noel Cantwell was the Roy Keane of his day.”
- Sean O’Riordan (2018, 7th April). Man Utd captain Noel Cantwell’s ashes to be scattered in Cork. The Irish Examiner. Retrieved from https://www.irishexaminer.com/
- David Griffin (2015, 12th March). Noel Cantwell Honoured at Mardyke. Retrieved from http://www.cricketireland.ie/