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Ten years since one of Ireland's greatest sporting achievements - Niall O'Brien reflects on Irish Cricket's miracle

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17 March 2007; The Ireland team celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; The Ireland team celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; The Ireland team celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

St. Patrick’s Day 2007 was a consuming day for the Irish sports fan. In Rome, Ireland had fallen painfully short in their last-ditch attempt to claim the Six Nations title after conceding a last minute try against Pierre Berbizier’s Italy.

In Dublin, St. Michael’s College had won their first ever Leinster Schools Cup in Donnybrook, while on the north side of the city, Crossmaglen Rangers drew with Dr. Crokes at Croke Park in the final of the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship, after two time All-star Oisin McConville kicked a last-gasp point to ensure Crossmaglen would keep their championship hopes alive.

But in Kingston, Jamaica, against all the odds, Ireland’s cricketers upset Pakistan in the penultimate game of the 2007 Cricket World Cup group stages, chasing down 132 runs to win by 3 wickets.

Led by Niall O’Brien’s game high 72 runs, Ireland pulled off one of the biggest upsets in cricket history with Kevin O’Brien and Trent Johnston’s 25 run partnership enough to see off a Pakistani side who were the number three ranked side in One Day International cricket at the time.

The historic win would lay the foundations for many future successes, including Cricket World Cup wins over England and the West Indies in the years to follow, but at the time, the win over Pakistan was like winning the World Cup for O’Brien and his teammates.

“That evening we felt like we had won the World Cup,” O’Brien told Independent.ie.

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17 March 2007; Ireland's Niall O'Brien and brother Kevin O'Brien, right, celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; Ireland's Niall O'Brien and brother Kevin O'Brien, right, celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; Ireland's Niall O'Brien and brother Kevin O'Brien, right, celebrate victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

“From ball one, we were always on top. From the moment we went out to bat, we knew we had a good chance of winning. I think the England game [2011] probably eclipses it for me, but I think the win against Pakistan set everything in motion. Without the Pakistan win, Irish Cricket probably isn’t where it is today.”

From the moment they arrived at Saxton Oval in Nelson, O’Brien and his teammates were confident of a good performance, partly due to the lush and well-maintained condition of the pitch.

Ireland won the toss and elected to field first, and blitzed Pakistan with a tremendous bowling attack led by Boyd Rankin who bowled 3/32 off nine overs.

With Rankin, Johnston, Dave Langford-Smith and Andre Botha tearing through Pakistan’s top order, the middle and tail end of Pakistan’s stand soon followed, as Ireland were set up for a very attainable chase of 133 runs when it was their turn to bat.

Ireland’s time at the crease got off to a very shaky start when Jeremy Bray was dismissed after just 14 minutes with three runs to his name, just two days after he scored 115 in the draw against Zimbabwe.

Current England ODI captain Eoin Morgan soon followed suit when he was dismissed next for just two runs, so by the time it was O’Brien’s turn to take to the field, Ireland needed a big innings from the Dubliner.

The wicketkeeper entered the 2007 World Cup in some of the worst form of his career, but had a sensational innings hitting 72 runs from just 107 balls.

O’Brien’s quickfire 72 set up a grandstand finish for Ireland with the underdogs needing just 25 runs from 16 overs to pull off the mammoth upset, but it was a chase that O’Brien could barely stomach to watch as he retreated to Ireland’s dressing room in despair following his dismissal.

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17 March 2007; Peter Gillespie, Ireland, celebrates victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; Peter Gillespie, Ireland, celebrates victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

17 March 2007; Peter Gillespie, Ireland, celebrates victory over Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

“From the second or third ball I knew things were clicking into gear for me,” added O’Brien.

“I knew the importance of the need to score runs and I knew I needed to put in a good performance as I owed the team some runs.

“It was up to me on the day to get the job done but I should have been there at the end to win it for us, to make the job easier for the lads, but it wasn’t meant to be as I played a bad shot and lost a wicket.

“I actually couldn’t watch so I stayed in the dressing room. I knew I had let the lads down by not seeing the game to the final run, so I actually couldn’t bring myself to go and watch the game from the balcony, so I just stayed in the dressing room and watched on the tv.

“I just sat there and [coach] Adrian Birrell was pacing around. He had a young child who was lying asleep on a towel and I just sat with Adrian and his kid and watched the rest of the game on tv. I couldn’t bring myself to go up to the balcony and watch, as if we didn’t win, I would have felt forever indebted.

“But I was delighted we got the win and we went out and celebrated afterwards.”

Ireland’s celebration on the team bus back to the hotel is one of the finest sights in Irish Cricket history, and is encapsulated brilliantly in this mini-series looking at Ireland’s historic win, as the Irish players were treated to a chorus of ole’s and glasses of champagne upon stepping off the team bus.

The rest of Ireland’s campaign that World Cup was largely forgettable, with the team winning just once from their next eight games over the remainder of the tournament, but that faithful day against Pakistan still lives long in the memory of many of Ireland’s players; most of whom are still involved with Irish cricket.

Who Were They And Where Are They Now? As Narrated By Niall O’Brien

Jeremy Bray – “He was known in our dressing room as ‘words’, because he likes to talk a lot. Words is currently the national coach of Denmark and is now living in Copenhagen.”

William Porterfield – “Porterfield is the current skipper of the Irish national team and is unbelievable form. He is actually staying two doors away from me out here in the hotel in Delhi. A lover of Man United and a great bloke. He was fantastic against Bangladesh for us in that World Cup.”

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John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

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John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Eoin Morgan – “Had a tough time as there was a lot of expectation on him in that World Cup but he’s obviously gone onto great things with England. Great bloke to have on your team and a champion of a player, really good company off the pitch. Always keen for a beverage and a catch up.”

Andre Botha – “Boatsy is living in Johannesburg and I saw him when I was out there in September. I had a catch up with him and he’s doing a lot of coaching there. Famous in that World Cup for getting two wickets for five runs (from 8 overs) in what was the best spell of bowling in a World Cup up to that date.”

Kevin O’Brien – “Broke into the team probably six or eight months before that tournament and has taken to international cricket like a duck to water really. Had a great time in that World Cup and did some really good stuff.”

Andrew White – “Whitey is back involved in Irish Cricket after retiring. He’s doing some coaching with the A team and the academy, and he’s working up in Belfast as a teacher. Lovely guy and a very dry sense of humour. Did a great job for us in the game against Zimbabwe and bowled well in the last over, and somehow restricted them to a couple of runs less to save us.”

Kyle McCallan – “A prankster along with Whitey. We got them on April Fools when we told them they’d have a big spread in The Times in London with their wives, and that they were being treated to this lavish three course meal, only for the journalist never to turn up and the bill left with them. They weren’t too happy.”

Trent Johnston – “T-Bird as he’s known. Was the skipper then and a brilliant captain. He’s coaching New South Wales in Australia now and his team is close to winning the Sheffield Shield. He’ll be a sought after commodity in the coaching world over the next 10 years.”

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John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

John Mooney, Ireland, celebrates with team-mates Kyle McCallan, centre, and Dave Langford-Smith, right, after catching off Umar Giul, Pakistan. ICC Cricket World Cup, Group D, Ireland v Pakistan, Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Picture credit: Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Boyd Rankin – “Boydo was fantastic that tournament, absolutely brilliant with the ball. Bowled with good pace and just a lovely guy really. A gentle giant.”

Dave Langford-Smith – “He was a really funny bloke. He moved to Australia but he’s back in Dublin now with his family. A great swing bowler and he’s got a bit of a dance on him with his ferret dance. Grew up in a town called Orange in Australia which is famous for growing apples.

Paul and John Mooney – “Two of the best teammates you could wish for really. Legends. Paul only played one game in the tournament, World Cup came a little too late for him really, was a stalwart of the team before that, brilliant bloke to have in your team. John is very busy now with his own personal training business, and Paul is in Christchurch in New Zealand with his family, but two brilliant guys. Great friends of mine.”

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