Cricket: Stirling sounds Irish rallying cry ahead of make-or-break Canada clash
IT'S make-or-break time for Ireland, with nothing short of a maximum-points victory over Canada required in Toronto this week to keep alive any outside hopes of them retaining the InterContinental Cup.
If Ireland do beat the team lying bottom of the seven-nation qualifying table, another win against Zimbabwe in Harare next month may just give Trent Johnston and Andrew White the chance of fourth straight winner's medal.
Even then, though, Scotland will have to visit Zimbabwe and deny them on their home turf for Ireland to reach the final in Dubai in November, but opening batsman Paul Stirling certainly hasn't given up on another trophy.
"If the weather hadn't intervened in the games against Kenya and Scotland we would have been in a much stronger position than this," Stirling said.
"But all we can do is win our two remaining games and hope the other result goes our way.
"We know that at this level if we play our best cricket over four days then we should win. We go out in every game and play the same way, whether that extra pressure is on or not."
Stirling is the only county-contracted player available to Ireland for the four-day game that starts in King City today, although Surrey wicketkeeper-batsman Gary Wilson will join the squad for two one-day internationals that follow the IC Cup clash.
One bonus for coach Phil Simmons is the return from injury of Andre Botha. Botha has been a stalwart of the national side over the past decade and will be desperate to prove his form and fitness ahead of the announcement of next year's World Cup squad.
Allan Eastwood, the 30-year-old Pembroke opening bowler who made his debut earlier this month against the Netherlands, is again expected to share the new ball with stand-in captain Johnston.
IRELAND (from) -- T Johnston (Capt), A Botha, G Dockrell, P Eaglestone, A Eastwood, N Jones, R McCann, J Mooney, K O'Brien, A Poynter, P Stirling, A van der Merwe, A White.