Cyril Vennard a gifted bowler and respected umpire with a deep passion for sport

Cyril Vennard, who passed away on November 4 at 70 years old, held a deep devotion to the pure value of sport that was evident across the decades.

Friday, 13th November 2020, 6:00 am
Cyril Vennard.

From hours bowling in some of Laurelvale’s most successful teams to his latter years spent serving as umpire within the worlds of both cricket and hockey, Vennard displayed an unshakeable commitment.

In the days before time restrictions on individual bowlers, it was not uncommon for Vennard to split a full 50-over fixture with his brother Eddie.

As umpire, he would often leave the Tandragee family home on multiple occasions over a week to play his part in fixtures ranging from top-level club cricket to schools’ hockey.

A familiar character across Ireland’s cricket scene for a love of post-match anecdotes in the clubhouse, Vennard’s transition from player to umpire may have been seen by some at odds with his off-the-field devilish sense of fun but the crucial official’s role perfectly suited that basic desire to help support sport.

It was a belief also evident in the weekly Friday night trips from Tandragee back to his Laurelvale roots across many years to share stories with friends and continue to give something back to the club he enjoyed representing for so long.

Vennard first lined out for Laurelvale in the 1960s - following his brother Eddie and their father Bothwell to the villagers - and went on to feature with the ball until opting to don the white coat as a valued member of the Northern Ireland Association of Cricket Umpires and Scorers.

“They say the best umpires have been there and done it and certainly Cyril was highly-regarded from his playing days,” said Tom Irwin, a cousin of the Vennards, former team-mate and part of that Friday night social circle with Cyril. “The Vennard brothers once combined to have the opposition all out for 10 and left-arm swing bowlers of Cyril’s calibre were few and far between.

“He also had a real enthusiasm and determination with the bat and Cyril certainly gave 100 per cent every time.

“During a blue riband era of the mid-1960s at Laurelvale, Cyril helped the club win a number of trophies and went on to prove a mainstay over the 1970s and 1980s thanks to his ability as such a clever bowler.

“He quickly established a reputation as a no-nonsense umpire who was disciplined and steadfast in his decisions but extremely fair.

“He had a real air of authority so, alongside his reputation as a player, was able to earn the respect of everyone in a role so important of course but one not always fully appreciated.

“He loved sport and played rugby at one point for Portadown plus even spent time as a Mid-Ulster Football League referee, such was his passion to step in and help out.

“I know he was so highly-valued by the NIACUS for his willingness to fill a void at short notice for fixtures at any level.

“He carried that same reliability and commitment into his time as hockey umpire, mainly for Lurgan College.

“He was a true character, part of life at Laurelvale for over 50 years and our deepest sympathies go to the Vennard family.”