Thursday 21 November 2019

'I'll look back with nothing but smiles and laughter' - O'Brien

Bowing out: Niall O’Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Bowing out: Niall O’Brien. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

David Townsend

Niall O'Brien will be missed - there's no doubting that. Not only for his match-winning efforts, like the iconic 72 against Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup when the Boys in Green first bounded onto the global stage, but also for his impact in the dressing-room.

The chirpy little wicketkeeper from Sandymount, who announced his retirement from all cricket yesterday, enjoyed a 16-year international career that spanned Ireland's rise from ambitious amateurs all the way to the Test-match arena.

O'Brien played a pivotal role in the ascent, his fiery passion and will to win inspiring team-mates and taking the fight to the opposition in equal measure to the point where it isn't a stretch to say that Test-match status would not have been achieved without him.

In May, he donned one of Ireland's first Test caps at Malahide, alongside brother Kevin, with his father and former Ireland batsman Brendan 'Ginger' O'Brien proudly watching on.

But 'Nobby' has struggled for form and consistency since ending his English county career in 2016 and, at 36, burgeoning off-field interests in player management and the media, plus the impending responsibilities of fatherhood, have influenced his decision.

"It's with a heavy heart that I'm announcing my retirement," said O'Brien, who had talked of bowing out after next summer's Test against England at Lord's.

"I have been blessed to have represented my country for 16 years with plenty more ups than downs and I'll look back with nothing but smiles and laughter.

"From playing relatively small fixtures at the start of my time with Ireland to competing and winning World Cup matches, to being there to play in our first Test match, meant I have achieved more than I could have ever dreamt of to begin.

"I'd like to thank my first club Railway Union and all my coaches and team-mates along the way, with a special thanks to Adi Birrell who took a chance on me in 2002, gave me my first cap and arranged a trial at Kent from where I started my 14-year county career.

"I always tried to play the game with a smile on my face and with an enjoyment that I think all people could see whether watching from the stands, standing with me in the field or coming up against me for the opposition."

Not all of his opponents would agree because there have been moments when a red mist descended - O'Brien has famously clashed with Brian Lara, outraged the Namibian farming community, and still doesn't exchange Christmas cards with Kevin Pietersen.

There have been far more highs than lows, though, with two centuries in three InterContinental Cup finals among his 6,097 runs in 216 matches for Ireland at an average of 31.5 and a record 225 catches, and 38 stumpings with the gloves.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Champions Cup returns, Jacob Stockdale's development, and Simon Zebo goes back to Munster

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport