Heroes bring home century of memories
THEY were elevated to the status of demigods by the cricketmad Indians.
And so admired were the Irish cricketers in the wake of their historic victory over England, fans on the streets of Delhi even pestered their families for autographs.
The parents of star players Kevin and Niall O’Brien, Camilla and former cricket player Brendan ‘Ginger’ O’Brien, were recognised while sightseeing and nabbed by eager autograph hunters.
“The sport is huge in India,” Camilla said. “It is probably like going to Kilkenny after winning an All-Ireland and everybody knows the parents and the brothers and the sisters. We definitely got the royal treatment.”
At Dublin Airport yesterday, however, the players – and their families – were brought back to reality with a bump after the sixweek contest.
Cricket is only beginning to register on the national consciousness here, so it was little surprise that the modest welcoming party consisted mainly of family and friends.
And aside from the small matter of a phone call from the President, a few Facebook messages and e-mails, Kevin O’Brien (27) said smashing the fastest century in World Cup history in Bangalore during the England match had yet to change his life.
“I suppose the next couple of days will tell me how much it has changed,” the star with the eye-catching pink hair admitted.
He suspects he might be too late to sign a lucrative contract to play in the Indian Premier League this year. “So hopefully I’ll have a good year and stay in the minds of franchises for 2012,” he added.
“It got pretty hectic for a while, I couldn’t have breakfast or dinner without people coming up and asking for photos and autographs. Cricket is massive over there and it is great that you can touch so many people with something you love to do.”
Kevin’s big brother, wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien (29), said his parents and the team were treated like celebrities after the England match was watched by an estimated TV audience of one billion in the cricket-mad Indian subcontinent.
“My mum and dad went to shopping malls, they went to the Taj Mahal outside Delhi and everyone went ‘You are the O’Brien parents,” he said.
But thanks to the team’s heroics in India, that enthusiasm might be catching on here, as Northamptonshire player Niall pointed out.
“Kids are out playing cricket on the green where they are normally kicking football or playing rugby so that for us is massive and the future of Irish cricket hopefully is brighter.”
Star player John Mooney’s fiance, Helena Grant, who was at the airport with their daughter Alisha (8), said she was delighted to spot children out playing the sport in Rush, Co Dublin, where they live.
Cricket coach, Phil Simmons, admitted the team had returned home sooner than he had hoped. “We didn’t pull through in the two matches that we needed to,” he reflected after they missed out on the quarterfinals. But despite this, now the side hopes to be granted full membership of the International Cricket Council.
“We have cemented our position at 10th in the world – precisely the CV of the nation ready to take the next step,” Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutron said.