Cricket: Contract boost to put Ireland in driving seat
IRELAND will go to next year's World Cup only one player short of a fully professional team after announcing four new central contracts for Andre Botha, Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney and Paul Stirling.
With Trent Johnston and Alex Cusack having their ground-breaking deals extended for another year, Cricket Ireland will have first call on six players -- while three of the national squad employed by county sides in England plus schoolteacher Andy White will also receive support.
The funding for this massive investment -- unequalled among the non-Test playing nations -- is being provided by sponsors RSA Insurance, along with help from both governments and the International Cricket Council.
CI chief executive Warren Deutrom is particularly pleased to have negotiated a deal with Middlesex that allows coach Phil Simmons to dictate which games Stirling plays for the Lord's outfit and when he is available for the national side.
In the past, Ireland have suffered the often selfish whims of counties and were forced to contest the 2005 World Cup qualifiers without Niall O'Brien, whose arm was twisted by his then employers Kent.
Deutrom said: "We are delighted to increase the number of our contracted players from two to six. Together with our county-contracted players, that makes 10 Irish cricketers playing and training on a professional basis."
Meanwhile, the U-19 World Cup squad flew into Queenstown yesterday -- 'Lord of the Rings' country -- still wishing to be swallowed up by Middle Earth after their astonishing collapse against the West Indies on Tuesday.
Wicketkeeper Stuart Poynter, whose crazy run out sparked the loss of five wickets for four runs and denied his team a historic first victory over a Test-playing nation, was one of several vowing "never again".
Coach Matt Dwyer told his charges that the harrowing experience would probably do them good in the long term, though, and is expected to make few changes for tomorrow's first group match against South Africa.