Tuesday 26 September 2017

Ireland aim to capitalise on West Indies in-fighting

John Mooney has become the heartbeat of the team following the retirement of Trent Johnston
John Mooney has become the heartbeat of the team following the retirement of Trent Johnston

David Townsend

IRELAND'S month-long World Cup campaign gets underway in New Zealand tomorrow evening Irish time, and by breakfast on Monday we should already know whether this latest adventure is going to be more Charlton than Trapattoni.

A flying start against a bickering West Indies side in front of a sell-out crowd in Nelson would give the Boys in Green a genuine chance of grabbing one of the top four places in the seven-team group and qualification for the quarter-finals.

Whereas a defeat - particularly a heavy defeat - would make the nine-day gap to Ireland's second game against the United Arab Emirates seem a very long time.

It's not quite all or nothing but the form book would have Ireland beating the UAE and Zimbabwe and losing to South Africa and India, so the first group game and last, against Pakistan in Adelaide, appear to be the keys to progression.

"It's the game we have all been looking forward to and planning for since the draw was made," John Mooney said. "Maybe that contributed to us taking our eye off the ball and losing to Scotland earlier in the week - but we're all raring to go now."

Mooney has become the heartbeat of the team following the retirement of Trent Johnston and will have a key role to play in the coming weeks, not only with his first-change seam bowling and lower-order bludgeoning.

More talented individuals like Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Kevin O'Brien may produce the eye-catching performances but Ireland's triumphs at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups have their roots in the passion of a tight group ethic nurtured by former coach Adi Birrell and continued by Phil Simmons.

Settled

A settled team - with everyone knowing their exact role within it - is crucial to success in limited overs cricket and is why, having finally seemed to grasp that, England may be a decent outside bet with Dubliner Eoin Morgan at the helm.

That factor gives Ireland an advantage over the West Indies, who maybe more talented individually but are riven with in-fighting and political strife and reeling from the omission of one-day superstars Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo.

It was Pollard's 94 from 55 balls that beat Ireland almost single-handedly when the teams met at the 2011 World Cup in a close match at Chandigarh, remembered for the controversial dismissal of Gary Wilson via an LBW decision that was twice referred to the TV umpire.

Ireland have beaten the West Indies before, of course. Not only in that nonsense of a game at Sion Mills in 1969 when a wet pitch and even wetter hospitality tent contributed to the visitors being dismissed for 25, but also as recently as a year ago in Jamaica.

The Boys in Green won the first of two T20s at Sabina Park, against a side containing Chris Gayle, should have won the second and were then well beaten in the only ODI.

Another upset may not happen at the Saxton Oval - especially if Gayle decides to entertain the capacity crowd - but there will be a famous victory somewhere along the way, be sure of that. It's what Ireland do.

Ireland v West Indies, live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 2, 10.0pm

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