Saturday 16 November 2019

Rivals fear underdogs' bite as Ireland hunt Test status

Kevin and Niall O'Brien celebrate Ireland's memorable World Cup victory over England in 2011
Kevin and Niall O'Brien celebrate Ireland's memorable World Cup victory over England in 2011

Michael McCarthy

The Rugby World Cup is what looms largest for Ireland on the international front in 2015. For all our peaks and troughs as a rugby nation, we don't exactly have the greatest record in the game's biggest event.

The same can't be said for another World Cup that awaits on the 2015 horizon, and unlike the rugby, we don't have to wait very long for the Cricket World Cup.

Next month, Ireland will be in Australia and New Zealand, equipped with a well-earned reputation for giant killing from their two previous appearances in the tournament.

In both 2007 and 2011, we illuminated the World Cup, beating two of the game's biggest names.

The incredible win over Pakistan on the green pitch in Jamaica on St Patrick's Day eight years ago still lives fresh in the memory. All the more remarkable was the Kevin O'Brien Show in Bangalore four years later.

Shocking a Pakistani team in disarray on a terrible pitch is one thing, but in 2011, we defeated England, in cricket, in the World Cup, in a high scoring shoot-out. Four years later, it seems surreal.

At the Cricket Ireland Awards before Christmas, I was struck by the sombre tone of CEO Warren Deutrom's speech. Ireland did not have a brilliant 2014.

A thrilling comeback by The Netherlands, eerily similar to O'Brien's hitting spree against England, meant we didn't advance in the World T20, and suffered a rare loss to another Associate nation.

What Cricket Ireland does now is expect. They believe the team is heading Down Under not to just compete, but to cause another shock, create another milestone for Irish cricket to build on.

Like so many of Irish sporting institutions, they have to endure smarmy well wishers, from without and within, with pats on the back for the plucky underdogs. They are ambitious and believe in their strategy of making Ireland a fully-fledged Test nation in the next decade.

This World Cup is the next step, and our group opponents probably aren't thrilled about the idea.

Irish Independent

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