Sunday 21 July 2019

Autographed serviette and letter pave the way for Oisin to answer Ireland's call

Match day mascot Oisin Gilbert with Kevin O’Brien
Match day mascot Oisin Gilbert with Kevin O’Brien

As Ireland's Call rang out around Malahide Cricket Club, standing quietly - almost sheepishly - in front of Ireland's one-day international captain William Porterfield was a seven-year-old boy. It was, according to his mother Tracey, the thrill of his life - although casual observers may not have noticed.

Oisin Gilbert grew up in a family that had no real interest in cricket. There was no playing or supporting tradition to be found. But Oisin loved the sport. He loved cricket - and he idolised one cricketer in particular, Kevin O'Brien. He wanted to meet his hero one day, but never dreamed it would be possible. That is, until a chance encounter at Dublin Airport set in motion a chain of events that resulted in Oisin standing on the field at Malahide as Ireland's team mascot.

Oisin's parents almost bumped into the Ireland Men's team at the airport as the cricketers were setting off on a recent tour.

Wanting to secure an autograph for their cricket-mad son, Oisin's parents couldn't find anything fancier than a paper serviette on which they sought the autograph of Kevin O'Brien and the teammates he was sitting with.

Returning home they framed the serviette. Oisin was presented with his unexpected present and together the family hung the autographed serviette on his bedroom wall. He was delighted.

Not long afterwards, Oisin's grandmother wrote a handwritten letter to Cricket Ireland, telling the story and passing on her thanks for making her grandson's day. She wrote: "Oisin is the biggest Irish cricket fan" and that the family had no idea where that love of the game came from.

The letter was timely - staff at Cricket Ireland were at that moment considering the team mascot at the then forthcoming match against England. The stars aligned, and Cricket Ireland proposed to Tracey Gilbert that Oisin should be the mascot … but it would be a surprise!

Under the guise of getting a special morning off school to see the Irish team training, Oisin and his mum arrived at Malahide two days before the big England match.

Oisin had some paper with him, hoping that perhaps he could secure another autograph while watching the training from a distance.

Before noticing, suddenly Oisin found himself being led out onto the field and into the middle of the training cricketers.

Then, to Oisin's surprise, his hero Kevin O'Brien walked over and shook his hand. The "usually chatty" Oisin was dumbstruck.

After a short conversation, and receiving a signed match programme, Kevin O'Brien then asked Oisin if he minded taking another morning off school to be the Ireland team mascot.

Fast forward two months, and Oisin's mother informs Cricket Ireland that Oisin still goes to bed each night singing Ireland's Call.

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