Cricket: Simmons extends stay as Ireland target Test status
PHIL SIMMONS was awarded a two-year extension as national coach yesterday when Cricket Ireland announced ambitious plans to become a Test-match playing nation by 2020.
A massive investment in the future of the game in Ireland will see a record 23 players contracted for the 2012 season.
Much of the funding for the project will come from a new multi-million-euro deal with sponsors RSA, expected to announced in the coming weeks.
Ireland's strong performances in successive World Cup campaigns have led to calls for Simmons' team to join England, Australia, India and the other seven Test-playing sides at the top table of international cricket.
The revival of an inter-provincial tournament and the establishment of regional academies should lead to a proper first-class multi-day competition within a few years.
Simmons wants to reach a position where young players don't feel the financial need to join English county sides, and compromise their availability for international games. Among the young players awarded contracts for the first time are the recent U-19 captain Andrew Balbirnie and team-mates Shane Getkate, James Shannon and Stuart Thompson.
- The RSA Challenge one-day international against Australia in Belfast on June 23 will be shown live on Sky Sports.