World Cup 2007 March 21, 2007

Fuelled by team spirit

Over the course of an unforgettable St Patrick's Day, what we saw was a team where every individual appeared to raise his game
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Dileep Premachandran

The son of James Joyce was instrumental in Ireland qualifying for this World Cup, with two centuries and two fifties in the 2005 ICC Trophy. And before the more literary among you get apoplectic, yes we do know that the man who wrote Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake passed away in January 1941. But by a happy quirk of fate, Edmund Christopher Joyce, Ed to his Irish and English team-mates, was also born to a James, and his 399 runs from five games were the focal point of a campaign in which the next highest scorer for Ireland was Trent Johnston with 183.

Joyce's heroics were proof that Ireland weren't just a team of journeyman pros imported from countries like Australia and South Africa. While the likes of Johnston, opener Jeremy Bray and South African allrounder Andrè Botha have all contributed to Irish cricket's dramatic rise through the associate ranks, Adrian Birrell, the coach, is keen to emphasise that 11 of the 15-man squad were born and bred in Ireland. "Ed was our best player," he says. "And he now opens for England. So we don't just import talent, we're also exporting it (smiles)."

Under Birrell, who spent 16 years with Eastern Province in South Africa, the different elements have combined together quite beautifully. "When I took over, we were probably ranked 18th or 20th in the world," he says. "Now, we're arguably the strongest associate [nation]. And along the way, we've picked up some major scalps."

Victories over Zimbabwe in 2003 and a Surrey team with eight internationals in 2004 were followed by a defeat of West Indies (2005), their opponents in the final Group D game on Friday. And the disappointment of losing to Scotland in that 2005 ICC Trophy final was offset to some extent by their triumph in the Intercontinental Trophy, a competition in which they have reached the final again this year.

And it's not only the national side that's doing well. At the European Championships in 2006, Ireland were champions at all six age groups from Under-13 to seniors, and according to Birrell, "some of the young boys waiting in the wings are exceptionally good."

Irish cricket has history too. The old-timers still wax eloquent about Dougie Goodwin (5-6) and Alec O'Riordan (4-18), who routed a West Indian team for 25 on a damp pitch at the Sion Mills Ground, south of Londonderry. Over the years, the feat has lent itself to urban legend and the name of Sir Garfield Sobers crops up, but though he was captain on that ill-fated tour in 1969, injury prevented him from crossing the Irish Sea. It was Basil Butcher that led a side which could also boast of a young Clive Lloyd and the 43-year-old Clyde Walcott.



Ed Joyce was instrumental in Ireland qualifying for this World Cup before England imported him © International Cricket Council

With that history of giant-killings in Irish cricket's past, Pakistan would have been wary last Saturday. But again, the conditions were to play a vital part in bridging the gulf in ability between the two sides. Though the pitch wasn't Sion Mills-damp, there was enough life in it to encourage the seam bowlers. And while both Dave Langford-Smith and the strapping Boyd Rankin were erratic, they produced the odd unplayable delivery.

Botha, with his experience of South African domestic cricket, did even better, exhibiting the mastery over line and length that was such a feature of South Africa's bowling in the Bob Woolmer-Hansie Cronje years. It was like watching Craig Matthews or Fanie de Villiers bowl, and even someone of the quality of Inzamam-ul-Haq was clueless as Botha bowled his eight overs for five runs and two wickets.

Over the course of an unforgettable St Patrick's Day, what we saw was a team where every individual appeared to raise his game, whether it was Johnston with that sensational catch to dismiss Kamran Akmal or Eoin Morgan with superb slip catches. William Porterfield rode his luck for a valuable 13, blocking up one end while the pint-sized Niall O'Brien went for his shots, and after a late wobble, Kevin O'Brien helped Johnston see it home with a fighting knock.

The bald and affable Jeremy Bray had played his part in the tie against Zimbabwe, scoring a brilliant 115, while Kyle McCallan, the teacher who might now need to take some extra days off, got the fortunate touch that changed the course of a game that Zimbabwe seemed to be have in their grasp.

They may come unstuck against West Indies, but unless things go drastically wrong, there's a Super Eight date with England to look forward to in Guyana a week on Saturday. For James Joyce's son, there will certainly be mixed emotions.

What they say

"But for me the weekend - the whole winter, come to that - was lit up by the brothers O'Brien, that nerveless brace of freckled Celtic redheads who with such serenity and staunch skill at the crease dispatched Pakistan from cricket's World Cup. - Nobody tells it quite like Frank Keating in The Guardian

What the Irish say

"Our fielding is excellent, we have a long batting line-up and the bowling's very good when we get it right. But if you ask me what our greatest strength is, it's the team spirit." - Adrian Birrell talks about his side, and no, he wasn't referring to Guinness or Bushmills. At least, we think not.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Nirav on March 25, 2007, 8:45 GMT

    No offence to the Irish, but they will be whipped in Super 8's. They have done brillant to get in 2nd round, considering it is there first World cup.

  • Augustine Pascal on March 24, 2007, 10:33 GMT

    From what i saw of Irland yesterday during the west Indies Game if this guys can get about 250 against any of the best sides in the world in this supper 8 series it will be very hard to chase down because i think the fielding is the best part of the game and it seems to come from their teams spirit.

  • amit on March 24, 2007, 9:59 GMT

    i dont think that ireland should be written off in the super-8s. they can win 1-2 ODIs in the super-8. the performance against pakistan wasnt just a 1-off. ireland had south africa struggling at 91/8 in the warm-up before andrew hall staged a dramatic recovery. the irish will know that and will try to improve upon with a win. ireland, in the next wrm-up, crushed canada comfortably by bowling them out for 115. also, ireland have their strike-bowlers bowling at 130-135 kph, which is about 10-15 kph faster than bowlers from other non-test teams.

    also, they have their traditional rivals england as well whom they have already aimed of beating. in the last match between the 2 teams, ireland scored 263 missing 3 of their main players, mainly batsmen due to county commitments. they can aim to win against bangladesh though and have a slight chance against everyone except maybe australia and i hope they do pull off 1-2 upsets

  • Sohrab on March 24, 2007, 7:00 GMT

    Ireland have shown good Cricket therefore they are in the super 8. I don't expect miracles from this team but it is definit that Cricket has a new (powerful) contender.

  • sher on March 24, 2007, 0:32 GMT

    Pakistan has lost. Don't lose heart. There will be another chance at the next world cup. All they need to do is to go back to the drawing table and see where they have made the mistakes.

  • Big J on March 23, 2007, 12:56 GMT

    Yes, it was a good performance by the Irish, but as my Afrikaans friend always say: "Nou gaan julle op julle moer kry." Meaning they will be brought down to earth in a harsh way. I also think that the format of the competition needs to be adjusted.

  • Adrian Bevaun on March 23, 2007, 12:29 GMT

    Just a fine example of what unity and cohesiveness amongst team-mates can accomplish. These lads have big hearts and that alone can overcome any obstacle. I truely believe that they will turn many more heads in this tournament...the fairytale has only just begun!!!

  • sanjay bihari on March 23, 2007, 9:50 GMT

    There have been 9 world cup so far and we have not come to conclusion about format of the competition. Current format gives teams no chance to recover. If such kind of format existed in 1992, there is no way pakistan have won the world cup, having 1 point from 4 matches in early stages.

  • Caoimhin on March 22, 2007, 16:01 GMT

    The Irish team have earned their right to have a go in the Super 8 s. That's all they will do but it is a great opportunity for the team to test themselves and learn and also to give the game some exposure at home. Would Pritam like to see a world cup where matches are played over and over until Pakistan win?! It's a tournament. Teams get knocked out. Get over it and learn how to lose properly.

  • Kashif Malik on March 22, 2007, 14:39 GMT

    Irish team may give tough time to Kiwis and English team and may win one of the two games. Aussies and Proteas will outclass them. Their games with rest of the team will be average.

  • Nirav on March 25, 2007, 8:45 GMT

    No offence to the Irish, but they will be whipped in Super 8's. They have done brillant to get in 2nd round, considering it is there first World cup.

  • Augustine Pascal on March 24, 2007, 10:33 GMT

    From what i saw of Irland yesterday during the west Indies Game if this guys can get about 250 against any of the best sides in the world in this supper 8 series it will be very hard to chase down because i think the fielding is the best part of the game and it seems to come from their teams spirit.

  • amit on March 24, 2007, 9:59 GMT

    i dont think that ireland should be written off in the super-8s. they can win 1-2 ODIs in the super-8. the performance against pakistan wasnt just a 1-off. ireland had south africa struggling at 91/8 in the warm-up before andrew hall staged a dramatic recovery. the irish will know that and will try to improve upon with a win. ireland, in the next wrm-up, crushed canada comfortably by bowling them out for 115. also, ireland have their strike-bowlers bowling at 130-135 kph, which is about 10-15 kph faster than bowlers from other non-test teams.

    also, they have their traditional rivals england as well whom they have already aimed of beating. in the last match between the 2 teams, ireland scored 263 missing 3 of their main players, mainly batsmen due to county commitments. they can aim to win against bangladesh though and have a slight chance against everyone except maybe australia and i hope they do pull off 1-2 upsets

  • Sohrab on March 24, 2007, 7:00 GMT

    Ireland have shown good Cricket therefore they are in the super 8. I don't expect miracles from this team but it is definit that Cricket has a new (powerful) contender.

  • sher on March 24, 2007, 0:32 GMT

    Pakistan has lost. Don't lose heart. There will be another chance at the next world cup. All they need to do is to go back to the drawing table and see where they have made the mistakes.

  • Big J on March 23, 2007, 12:56 GMT

    Yes, it was a good performance by the Irish, but as my Afrikaans friend always say: "Nou gaan julle op julle moer kry." Meaning they will be brought down to earth in a harsh way. I also think that the format of the competition needs to be adjusted.

  • Adrian Bevaun on March 23, 2007, 12:29 GMT

    Just a fine example of what unity and cohesiveness amongst team-mates can accomplish. These lads have big hearts and that alone can overcome any obstacle. I truely believe that they will turn many more heads in this tournament...the fairytale has only just begun!!!

  • sanjay bihari on March 23, 2007, 9:50 GMT

    There have been 9 world cup so far and we have not come to conclusion about format of the competition. Current format gives teams no chance to recover. If such kind of format existed in 1992, there is no way pakistan have won the world cup, having 1 point from 4 matches in early stages.

  • Caoimhin on March 22, 2007, 16:01 GMT

    The Irish team have earned their right to have a go in the Super 8 s. That's all they will do but it is a great opportunity for the team to test themselves and learn and also to give the game some exposure at home. Would Pritam like to see a world cup where matches are played over and over until Pakistan win?! It's a tournament. Teams get knocked out. Get over it and learn how to lose properly.

  • Kashif Malik on March 22, 2007, 14:39 GMT

    Irish team may give tough time to Kiwis and English team and may win one of the two games. Aussies and Proteas will outclass them. Their games with rest of the team will be average.

  • Kashif Malik on March 22, 2007, 14:39 GMT

    Irish team may give tough time to Kiwis and Enlish team and may win one of the two games. Aussies and Proteas will outclass them. Their games with rest of the team will be average.

  • siddhartha on March 22, 2007, 14:12 GMT

    hey the irish have done a wonderful job kudos to them whoever is behind this deserves a pat on his back

    i really would want to know how Ed Joyce is feeling esp if england dont qualify for the super 8's

  • Ali on March 22, 2007, 13:37 GMT

    Luck will not work in Super Eight. Ireland will become the whipping boys of Super Eight.

  • basa rama krishna on March 22, 2007, 12:31 GMT

    Hats Off to the Irish Cricketers or should i say Warriors, who proved the world that the minnows are not here just for Vacation. They meant their buisiness and knocked out the team that boasted of Quality players like Inzy,Yousuf,Younis etc.,

    The most heartening aspect of their cricket is their Team Spirit, firstly they didn't give up against Zimbabwe when it was almost Certain that the match had slipped from their hands. And then against Pakistan, they raised their bowling, fielding and batting exceptionally and stunned them. More of their determination was in show when they were chasing the target that was a much complex One on that tricky pitch.

    Now that they are in the super 8's, it would be difficult to expect them to be in the Semi-Finals ala Kenya in the last world cup(the format was different this time), but one thing is for sure they will not lose badly but will give the fight to the oppositions and come Guyana for the match against England, there could be Another Upset in the making....

  • Go the underdog on March 22, 2007, 11:57 GMT

    You must feel for Ed Joyce having sold his sole to play for the enemy. Ireland in the Super 8s and Ed having to watch on TV after an amazing effort from the Kenyan lads. Well you never can tell in sport, go the underdog

  • Pritam on March 22, 2007, 11:24 GMT

    They will be a punching bag for every other team in the Super Eights. The new format has backfired, eliminating a top team just because of one upset. It will eliminate another ie India because of just one upset defeat. The Irish will be on the receiving end of some carnage now. Hope this format is never repeated again that gives teams no chance to recover.

  • sandeep patil on March 22, 2007, 11:14 GMT

    Irelands entry into super 8 will lead to few more one sided affairs in super 8, if we did not have enough in early stages.

  • Niall Sullivan on March 22, 2007, 11:08 GMT

    I'm sure it was a slip of the pen (or keyboard, Dileep, but West Indies all out for 25 in 1969 was at Clontarf's ground in Dublin. The second game the follwing day at Sion Mills was drawn due to the rain mentioned, so Ireland won the 2 game series 1-0. The problem for West Indies at Clontarf had more to do with a bumpy pitch. Basil Butcher later said that the pitch was so bad that the West Indies held back on their fast bowlers for fear of killing someone, so Ireland sauntered to 26 for 1 and won by 9 wickets.

  • brendan on March 22, 2007, 8:48 GMT

    WATCH OUT ENGLAND, HERE COME THE TEAM YOU ARE MORE SCARED OF PLAYING THAN ANYONE.

  • Paul Whelan on March 22, 2007, 6:36 GMT

    Being an Australian of Irish descent, I'm overwhelmingly wrapped for this team and the country.I never knew, Ireland were so good in their youth squads. They so remind me of our Socceroos in Germany.No one believed they could achieve, except themselves. I believe Ireland will give the super 8's a mighty shake. I so hope to the almighty god, that Australia will be drawn against them or South Africa, after the warm up game. If there's two captains who need a wake up call, it's Ricky Ponting.The games not just about Australia or You, Ricky.It's the international game. Greame Smith, for precisely, being Greame Smith. Goooooooo Ireland. Commiserations to your former chairman as well and his family. Finally, in a local cricket program for the World Cup, they predicted Ireland to finish 15th ahead of Bermuda.

  • farooq on March 22, 2007, 6:27 GMT

    well luck doesnot support you everytime.ireland was lucky againt pakistan,paki team was not at his best.if shoaib and asif were playing situation would be different and more over situation suits them.there is always a difference between test playing nation and one day teams.ireland is new in this world and i dot think they will beat any1 else

  • GAUTAM on March 22, 2007, 6:13 GMT

    they will be thrashed blck and blue. It is only because of inconsistent teams like India and Pakistan that such undeserving teams reach such levels bringing disgrace to this royal game of cricket. Its a shame.

  • Rajkumar S on March 22, 2007, 5:20 GMT

    Congrats to Irish team.Ireland will not be a force in the Super 8s for sure, but the way they play their cricket is really really wonderful.The crowd enjoying their team's performance which is a rare sight for the associate countries.What ever may be the fate, the Irish team and their fans will lit up the the Super 8s for sure.

  • ronnie on March 22, 2007, 3:00 GMT

    well the irish have shown great spirit but the challenge will really be tougher. firstly the windies will show why they really don't belong in the super 8 and then they will be destroyed by the big guns like new zealand, australia, sri lanka and s. africa. they may have a chance agaisnt gutless england but if india make it through i don't think they will make the same mistake

  • vegasbabu on March 22, 2007, 2:36 GMT

    In the Super eights Ireland will go back to minnow status as the game against Pakistan was a flash in the plan.

  • Melbourne Irish on March 22, 2007, 1:03 GMT

    C'MON YOU BOYS IN GREEN!

  • aj on March 22, 2007, 0:26 GMT

    i think irish team are to much optimestic for the world cup and are dreaming too much. the defeat pakistan had against ireland, wasn´t cosed by ireland´s performence. pakistan can only blame them selves. there poor performance against west indies was clearly lack of the bad selection worldcup sguad and all the issus just before the world cup. sow in my point of viev ireland will soon end there jorney in the world cup. clearly if the qualify as 2nd from the group they will face sout africa or australia.

  • Prashant Anand on March 22, 2007, 0:13 GMT

    The Irish reminded me, why I love the game so much. The spirit they showed in the game was most inspirational and wil not be forgotten for a long time. Pakistan is an awesome team,no matter how much one would downplay the fact you still have to give the due credit to the fighting Irish.

  • Dinesh on March 22, 2007, 0:06 GMT

    Well, with Ireland in the Super 8s, I think that 5 games are going to be pretty one-sided because teams will definitely get their intensities up. The games against Ireland will be used to compensate for any run-rate deficiencies that teams might have. Fairy-tales only last that long ....

  • Dinesh on March 22, 2007, 0:03 GMT

    Well, with Ireland in the Super 8s, I think that 5 games are going to be pretty one-sided because teams will definitely get their intensities up. The games against Ireland will be used to compensate for any run-rate deficiencies that teams might have. Fairy-tales only last that long ....

  • Eoghan on March 21, 2007, 23:07 GMT

    The Super Eights are likely to be a sobering experience. But Ireland have achieved more than anyone expected. Given the resources Irish cricket operates on, this is one of the country's greatest ever sporting performances. At the very least, the players will now get to enjoy the experience of playing against all of the world's best in top competition.

  • christy on March 21, 2007, 23:07 GMT

    You know, it does n't really matter what happens to Ireland in the Super 8s, they are heroes in our country now anyway. However, don't write them off just yet, even I as an Irishman, was amazed at the fantastic spirit shown when the team achieved that memorable fightback to a tie with Zimbabwe. Good luck to the team no matter who they meet in the next Phase if they show that same determination they may get further rewards on the field!

  • Fearghal on March 21, 2007, 17:55 GMT

    Great to hear the Pakistan sour grapes. Makes it all the sweeter. Keep it coming boys. Whether we come unstuck or not we are there, you are at home. We will send you a postcard.

  • Arun Batish on March 21, 2007, 17:19 GMT

    I dont know about other teams, but if they meet India (assuming they qualify) they will definitely beat India.

  • sandip kumar burnwal on March 21, 2007, 17:16 GMT

    irish man are splendid throughout there two matches against zimbabwe and pakistan. they can play under pressure and thats why they draw the match against zimbabweians.what would u want more from a associate country???? cheer for ireland.

  • Nikhil Puri on March 21, 2007, 16:50 GMT

    I think theyll put some teams under pressure, especially if they get the conditions they prefer. I'd like to see England play them, as both teams would know each other's strengths and weaknesses pretty well. They might challenge England, but clinical teams such as Australia and South Africa will dispose of them nicely. India will give them a chance as they do, but I doubt another Bangladesh is on the cards here (providing that India qualify, Being Indian , my heart says we will)

  • dheeraj on March 21, 2007, 16:43 GMT

    Irish are a good compact side but they will come unstuck inthe super 8 . Mainly due to the difference in calibre of the teams ,but beacause of their team spirit they might win one or at the max two games in the super 8 . I dont see them going beyond that because their batting can come unstuck in front of quality bowling and their batting is dependent on a few main players .

  • najib on March 21, 2007, 16:37 GMT

    i would like to congratulate irish people for winning against pakistan, but this is the only happiness they will get, pakistan were simply not playing at their very best, and even pakistan made only 138, the target was like a mountain for irish batsman who were batting against not so good bowling line up. so i think they just had their lucky charms, but as i said before, this is the only happiness they will get in this world cup.

  • Sligo on March 21, 2007, 15:20 GMT

    there fielding was exceptional against pakistan. if it was half as good against zimbabwe they would have won that match with ease. regardless what happens now this has been an incredible achievement and you won't see any big margins for the big teams against them going forward...

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  • Sligo on March 21, 2007, 15:20 GMT

    there fielding was exceptional against pakistan. if it was half as good against zimbabwe they would have won that match with ease. regardless what happens now this has been an incredible achievement and you won't see any big margins for the big teams against them going forward...

  • najib on March 21, 2007, 16:37 GMT

    i would like to congratulate irish people for winning against pakistan, but this is the only happiness they will get, pakistan were simply not playing at their very best, and even pakistan made only 138, the target was like a mountain for irish batsman who were batting against not so good bowling line up. so i think they just had their lucky charms, but as i said before, this is the only happiness they will get in this world cup.

  • dheeraj on March 21, 2007, 16:43 GMT

    Irish are a good compact side but they will come unstuck inthe super 8 . Mainly due to the difference in calibre of the teams ,but beacause of their team spirit they might win one or at the max two games in the super 8 . I dont see them going beyond that because their batting can come unstuck in front of quality bowling and their batting is dependent on a few main players .

  • Nikhil Puri on March 21, 2007, 16:50 GMT

    I think theyll put some teams under pressure, especially if they get the conditions they prefer. I'd like to see England play them, as both teams would know each other's strengths and weaknesses pretty well. They might challenge England, but clinical teams such as Australia and South Africa will dispose of them nicely. India will give them a chance as they do, but I doubt another Bangladesh is on the cards here (providing that India qualify, Being Indian , my heart says we will)

  • sandip kumar burnwal on March 21, 2007, 17:16 GMT

    irish man are splendid throughout there two matches against zimbabwe and pakistan. they can play under pressure and thats why they draw the match against zimbabweians.what would u want more from a associate country???? cheer for ireland.

  • Arun Batish on March 21, 2007, 17:19 GMT

    I dont know about other teams, but if they meet India (assuming they qualify) they will definitely beat India.

  • Fearghal on March 21, 2007, 17:55 GMT

    Great to hear the Pakistan sour grapes. Makes it all the sweeter. Keep it coming boys. Whether we come unstuck or not we are there, you are at home. We will send you a postcard.

  • christy on March 21, 2007, 23:07 GMT

    You know, it does n't really matter what happens to Ireland in the Super 8s, they are heroes in our country now anyway. However, don't write them off just yet, even I as an Irishman, was amazed at the fantastic spirit shown when the team achieved that memorable fightback to a tie with Zimbabwe. Good luck to the team no matter who they meet in the next Phase if they show that same determination they may get further rewards on the field!

  • Eoghan on March 21, 2007, 23:07 GMT

    The Super Eights are likely to be a sobering experience. But Ireland have achieved more than anyone expected. Given the resources Irish cricket operates on, this is one of the country's greatest ever sporting performances. At the very least, the players will now get to enjoy the experience of playing against all of the world's best in top competition.

  • Dinesh on March 22, 2007, 0:03 GMT

    Well, with Ireland in the Super 8s, I think that 5 games are going to be pretty one-sided because teams will definitely get their intensities up. The games against Ireland will be used to compensate for any run-rate deficiencies that teams might have. Fairy-tales only last that long ....