Ireland begin Cup defence with Test spot the top priority for Bracewell
Eyes will be to the skies in Malahide today as Ireland begin their defence of the InterContinental Cup against the United Arab Emirates in the first of seven matches that could lead to the dream of playing Test cricket by 2019.
While divine intervention should not be necessary against a side Ireland have lost to only twice - and not since 2001 - a kindly hand from the weather gods will be important over the next four days and in two other home fixtures against Hong Kong and the Netherlands.
If Ireland are to win the trophy for the fifth time in six editions - and thereby qualify for the Test Challenge against the lowest-ranked ICC Full Member - they will also have to perform well in Namibia later this year and in away matches against Papua New Guinea and Afghanistan before tackling Scotland at a neutral venue in late 2017.
The desire and ambition of William Porterfield's team to overcome every obstacle the ICC sets in their way and reach the top level is evident from the full complement of county players making themselves available for new coach John Bracewell's first selection.
While IC Cup games are granted "mandatory release" status by the ICC, in the past that wouldn't have prevented some players requesting to remain with their primary employers.
Not this time. Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien, Gary Wilson and Tim Murtagh are all missing from the current round of championship matches while Paul Stirling, who has scored 92 and 88 in Middlesex's last two T20 Blast games, will not face Hampshire on Thursday.
"It's nice that my first game in charge will be at home," Bracewell said. "It's our ambition to become a Test-playing country and the opportunity to move towards that was one of the primary reasons I was attracted to the job of Head Coach.
"It's exciting for the team and the country that we have this chance to write new chapters in our cricketing history.
"We'll be at full strength and playing the UAE in home conditions gives us a great chance to get our campaign off to a winning start."
Meanwhile, Bracewell has included Merrion all-rounder Tyrone Kane in his squads for both the World T20 qualifiers in July, and a three-match T20 series against Scotland that precedes it.
With Joyce and Murtagh unavailable, The Hills paceman Max Sorensen is the major omission from the qualifiers.