O’Neill spins his way onto top honour roll

O’Neill spins his way onto top honour roll

Merewether spinner Tim O’Neill was the youngest of three brothers.

HAUL: Merewether spinner Tim O’Neill. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

And while there was many a backyard battle attheir Central Coast home, the now 40-year-old can’t quite recall returning anything near 14-65at the Toukley venue.

“I might have told them that, but I don’t think so,” father-of-three O’Neill said.

“It was just a crazy couple of days.”

The learning support teacher at St Mary’s, Gateshead,claimed his career-best figures in an outright victory over long-time rivals Hamilton-Wickham at Townson Oval in the most recent two-day match before Christmas.

It was the last thing on the left-arm orthodox bowler’s mind having just completed the weekly Saturday dash to seniors from under 11s, with eldest son Rory lining up for the Kotara Tigers.

“I was trying to drop off kids to cricket games, rub sunscreen on their faces and then do the same thing to mine,” O’Neill said.

“I normally get a text on the way to the ground and if we’re batting I can relax and not try to put my spikes on while I’m in the car, but if we’re bowling the mad dash is usuallyon.”

On both days the Lions bowled, firstly because Hamwicks won the toss and secondly because Merewether skipper Simon Moore opted to declare overnight.

It worked out in O’Neill’s favour with a tweak-friendly deck helping him to 8-30 and then 6-35 in each respective innings from a collective 25.2 overs, including seven maidens.

“The ball was just turning,” he said.

“You might jag one of those [pitches] a couple of times each year, butnine times out of 10 their flat, hard concrete things and the old, slow bowler doesn’t get much joy.

“Or I get a bowl after everyone else has had a bowl and the batsman are set so it was nice to get a go from the start.

“It was doing plenty and it was a great day. The next week wasn’t quite as raucous in terms of spin, but still good.”

O’Neill has played with Merewether for the best part of two successful decades and alongside pace attacks featuring the likes of Mark Cameron, Chad White, Duncan McIlveen, Daniel Morton and Neil Crittenden.

His latest numbersexceeda previouspersonal best innings tally of 7-11 in 2013-2014.He can’t remember clinching 10 wickets before across two innings.

But despite this recentperformance now sitting 14th on the all-time Newcastle District Cricket Association first grade honour board O’Neillrates multiple title wins and thrilling finshes higher on his own pecking order, including the last-gasp,final-winning wicket from two summers ago with one run to spare.

Midway through thisseason the Lions are 13 points clear on top of theladder.