Niall O’Brien: Ireland can show they deserve to play the best this summer

Ireland haven't had an easy start to their big summer of cricket, but this is exactly the challenge they've wanted for years, says Niall O'Brien.

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When I left Malahide after the England game, even in defeat, there was a sense of excitement. People left the stadium with a positive frame of mind. Ireland played three debutants, which was great to see. Two of the three – Josh Little and Mark Adair – acquitted themselves very well and young Lorcan Tucker will be better for the experience. So overall, you’d have been pretty happy.

Little, in particular, was excellent with the ball, taking four wickets, and it was the aggression he showed, especially in his dismissal of Eoin Morgan with a very fast bouncer, that was really pleasing for players and fans to see. I was hoping the selectors would give youth a chance and was delighted by his performance especially.

But you can’t expect a youngster like him to get four wickets every day. It’s important that the senior players up their performances so the young lads in the team if they have a bad day, it’s not to the detriment of the team.

That means senior players must stick their hands up with match-winning performances. At the moment, some aren’t.

Coach Graham Ford and the selectors will have to look at that. The senior players have to win games for Ireland, not rely on young guys. Otherwise, for some of them, this summer’s opportunity could pass them by.

There’s a lot to play for in the next few months, starting with the second game against the West Indies on Saturday at Malahide. There are places up for grabs – it’s the first time in a long time there are people looking over their shoulder for their positions – and if players put in performances they can nail down a place in Ireland’s plans for next couple of years.

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Windies blow Ireland off course

It was a massive let down in Clontarf in the first game against the West Indies.

Their team is full of talented players but it’s not the main stars, Chris Gayle, Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell, all these names from IPL weren’t involved. This series is a really good opportunity for Ireland to build momentum and keep it going from pushing England, but that was sapped very quickly out of the previous game by the world-record opening partnership that took the game away from Ireland.

Ireland were poor with the ball and the batting was never really in the game either apart from a solo performance from Kevin O’Brien, who played through the pain of a dislocated finger to put up some resistance. But it was too many runs.

It was great to see Ireland back playing international cricket in Clontarf though. It’s a historic venue for Ireland, and in the summer I always loved playing there for club and country. It’s nice to see the old ground get some big fixtures again.

Hopefully in Saturday’s rematch at Malahide Ireland can lift the hoodoo they’ve suffered from on that ground, where they’ve only beaten Scotland in international play, and that was quite a while ago now.

One-Day International, Malahide Cricket Club, Dublin 3/5/2019
Ireland vs England
England’s Ben Foakes celebrates as Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie is stumped
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

No easy games for Ireland now

It’s another tough game for Ireland. There are no easy games for them now. Gone are the days when you’d have easy games against weaker associate ICC members and you could smash them around without performing at your absolute best. Every game now is huge.

You look at this summer; there’s England, the tri-series with the West Indies and Bangladesh, Afghanistan are coming, Zimbabwe, the England test match. There really is no let-up, and players are going to have to learn on the job at this level.

It’s a huge summer. This is what we all wanted, the big fixtures of full Test status. Now the team has to start putting in the performances to show Ireland warrant it.

They didn’t get the win over England, but it was close. Ben Foakes was LBW but Ireland chose not to review. That was a big turning point. It would’ve tilted the game in Ireland’s favour.

Happy as many were, the players would’ve thought, had we reviewed that, we would’ve won the game. We missed a trick.

It was a better performance than previous games against England, but it’ll still go down as a missed opportunity. Ireland’s batting never really got to grips with the conditions when they were put in.

The score they put up at half-time, not many would’ve given Ireland a chance. But the way they came out and attacked England, bowling and fielding, gave everyone optimism and hope for a big summer ahead.

Ireland will be hoping to recapture some of that on Saturday against the West Indies.

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