Thursday 21 November 2019

Taoiseach goes to bat for Ireland in World Cup bid

Politics and banking join forces to back the Irish cricket team's battle to take part in 2015, writes Gerard Siggins with photographs by David Conachy

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was guest of honour at the 10th annual Sunday Independent Cricket Society awards -- and marked the occasion by strongly backing the Irish team in its battle to be allowed qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

"I hope that the ICC [International Cricket Council] understands that letting a team like Ireland compete is in its own interest," the Taoiseach said. "If the game is to be galvanised throughout the world, countries like Ireland and our exciting team should have that opportunity."

The Taoiseach's support was welcomed by the Irish players, with Sunday Independent /Cricket Ireland Irish International Cricketer of the Year John Mooney thanking him for the support."It's great to get the backing of the Taoiseach and his ministers because this is a vital moment for Irish cricket," the all-rounder said. "We need all the help we can get to try to overturn this terrible decision."

The Taoiseach spoke about watching cricket on the Mall in Castlebar, the ground owned by Lord Lucan which was donated to the people of the town early in the last century.

"Lucan's ground was where I first saw cricket, with people wearing whites and calling out words I didn't understand," the Taoiseach said.

He recalled the recent victory over England. "This is an occasion we should celebrate because in Bangalore the Irish team brought fame and honour to young Mooney, O'Brien and Johnston, and all the people associated with this wonderful victory."

Nodding to his fellow guests, the Taoiseach pledged: "We're going to join forces here, Willie O'Dea, myself and Richie Boucher -- and between the banks and politics, we're going to ensure that Ireland does get into the World Cup."

Editor of the Sunday Independent, Aengus Fanning, introduced the president of the Cricket Society, Charles Lysaght, and event sponsors Richie Boucher of Bank of Ireland and Mark Deering of Sky TV.

Mr Lysaght hailed 2010-11 as "the greatest year of all for Irish cricket" and Kevin O'Brien's 113 against England as "the greatest innings of all-time".

Special guests included John Mooney and his partner Helena Grant, Kevin O'Brien and girlfriend Ruth-Anne Kilty, and his parents Brendan and Camilla, and George Dockrell and his father Derek.

John Mooney was named as the Sunday Independent/ Cricket Ireland Irish International Cricketer of the Year for his powerful performances in 2010, which included his first century for Ireland, against Holland, and excellent innings in victories over Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Mr Mooney received the Alan Ruddock Trophy, named in honour of the Sunday Independent writer and keen cricketer who died suddenly last May. Alan's father John Ruddock was also present to receive a replica of the trophy which, as Mr Lysaght said, "we hope will give him solace on the loss of a man whom we loved so much".

John Mooney expressed his delight and gratitude at receiving the award. "I am very proud to receive this award ahead of some unbelievably talented players," he said.

Kevin O'Brien was given a special award for his stunning innings against England. Former Cricket Ireland president Basil McNamee presented him with a framed photograph of his celebration in Bangalore.

Mr McNamee hailed what he called "an outstanding eleven". Not only did they defeat Zimbabwe and Bangladesh last year, but they also dominated the World champions for long periods.

"For the first hour of our innings against Australia we held the balance of power.

"It's a bit like Rory McIlroy last weekend. You probably have to get into a winning position and lose a few times before you can get into a winning position and hold on."

Mr McNamee also spoke about "the day of all days, in Bangalore, when a modern-day Hercules stood at the wicket . . . it was the most outstanding display of clean hitting I have seen in a lifetime watching cricket."

Kevin O'Brien also expressed his gratitude for the beautiful memento, and congratulated his team-mate on winning the supreme award.

"Johnny has been our most consistent player, and it is especially good to see how well our home-based players have performed. Without the support of RSA, and the sports councils, Cricket Ireland couldn't give us contracts.

"It is interesting that the last four winners of this award -- Trent Johnston, Andre Botha, myself and John -- have all been contracted to Cricket Ireland."

The guest speaker was former Derbyshire bowler Geoff Miller, who is now England's chairman of selectors. He made a hilarious speech about his long career and lent his name to the campaign to have a qualifying tournament for 2015.

"I really hope the ICC decision is rethought seriously. Irish cricket needs the World Cup, and the World Cup needs Irish cricket," he said.

Mr Miller doffed his cap to Kevin O'Brien, who played "one of those innings you will rarely ever see", before warning him "don't do it again!" Ireland play England in Clontarf in August. "We're going to bring our full side," he joked.

Former Tanaiste Michael McDowell was introduced as "a great expert on the game of cricket" which he shot down as an exaggeration. "However, I was elected to talk occasionally about matters I knew nothing about, and am still paid to do so in the Four Courts," he joked. He recalled his days as a schoolboy keeping the scorebook under the copper beech trees in Gonzaga.

Other special guests included rugby legend Fergus Slattery, former minister Willie O'Dea, writer Tim Pat Coogan, Cricket Ireland president Richard Johnston, and officials Warren Deutrom, Sue Wickham, and David Williams.

A warm tribute was also paid to Padraic Conneely, manager of the National Yacht Club, whose last function this was before retirement.

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