Cricket: O'Brien bids to 'relaunch' Ireland career
NIALL O'BRIEN is planning to "relaunch" his international career today as Ireland take on the United Arab Emirates in the first of three crucial matches in nine days.
A four-day InterContinental game in Sharjah is followed next week by two 50-over World Cup qualifiers. Win all three and Ireland will have one foot in the IC Cup final for the fourth time in five editions, and can start packing for Australia and New Zealand in 2015.
Lose all three and a nervous summer awaits, with final rounds of matches against the Netherlands and Scotland.
"We are leading the qualifying for both competitions and we know we can really take the pressure off over the next couple of weeks – that's what we'll be looking to do," O'Brien said.
"The four-day game is going to be hard work because the pitches out here are slow and don't spin as much as you'd think. Get past the new ball and there are runs to be had if you watch your shot selection."
By his own admission, the wicketkeeper-batsman had a patchy 2012 after briefly losing his place in the national squad when he opted to play in the Bangladesh T20 tournament instead of touring Kenya.
"I had a stumbling season last year but first-class cricket is something I always enjoy and we've had a fair bit of success in the IC Cup over the years," said O'Brien, who has taken part in three winning campaigns.
"I've done well in these conditions in the past and hopefully I can relaunch my Ireland career out here and have a big 2013."
Veteran all-rounder Trent Johnston, who captained Ireland to their first IC Cup success in 2005, could make a rare four-day appearance, with The Hills paceman Max Sorensen, John Mooney and youngster James Shannon favourites to miss out from the 14-man squad.
IRELAND (from): W Porterfield (capt), P Stirling, E Joyce, N O'Brien, A Cusack, K O'Brien, G Wilson, A White, T Johnston, G Dockrell, T Murtagh, M Soresen, J Mooney, J Shannon.