Sunday 17 November 2019

Our World Cup heroics

NOT perhaps since Cu Chulainn slew the fearsome hound of Culainn by the means of a sliothar has a sporting establishment had to swallow so much as the English did yesterday when the Irish cricket team made history.

Most of us might glaze over at the finer points of "leg before wicket" but we recognise heroics when we see them and the exploits of Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien might rightly be seen as the best thing we have seen since the invention of the sliced pan.

Even their most faithful followers must have had their doubts. The English regard cricket as the last bastion of quintessential Britishness.

They may have watched admiringly as we beat Pakistan and Bangladesh in the last World Cup in 2007, but they still would have been confident they would swat us away without creasing their whites unduly and take their rightful place in the quarter finals.

To put this victory in context, Ireland does not even have full Test status and must be content to participate as what the Cricket Council calls a lowly Associate Nation.

Somebody obviously forgot to inform Kevin O'Brien that his team were lesser beings. He hit a sensational 113 from 63 balls and delivered one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The ease with which he dispatched Graeme Swann, regarded as the number one spin bowler in the world will be savoured by fans.

The whole country is rightly proud of his feat, none more than his brother Ger, who last night saluted his extraordinary achievement.

His only regret was that he hadn't put his money where his heart was. "Some bookmakers had Ireland at 400-1 at one stage. I wish I'd not kept my money in my pocket."

O'Brien has proven himself to be a big hitter. As they say, the bigger they are the harder they fall, and they don't come any bigger than the English.

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