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The best 24 hours of my life – March 6 2011. A date that will be etched in Irish sporting folklore. Maggie Thatcher, Winston Churchill, your boys took a hell of a beating!
It might have been portrayed as one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history, but this team were always confident that we could compete against the world’s best, and if things went our way, would prevail.
We bowled well in the latter part of the England innings to restrict them to 327, when they seemed destined for a score in excess of 350.
I was happy with my only personal performance dismissing Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan to record my best figures in ODI cricket.
When it came to our turn to bat, we got off to the worst possible start, losing our skipper to the first ball of the innings. Despite cameo knocks from Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien we were staring down the barrel at 111 for 5 and the odds on the team winning were a reported 400 to 1. Enter the pink haired Kevin O’Brien – we had participated in a ‘Shave or dye’ campaign for the Irish Cancer Society the day before – and in the next 90 minutes he entered the record books with the best one-day innings I’ve ever witnessed.
He smashed the quickest ever century in World Cup history (50 balls) as the England bowlers were dispatched to all parts. One of his sixes off Jimmy Anderson went a mammoth 102 metres, which at the time of writing is the biggest in the competition.
The role of Alex Cusack, ‘The Quiet Man’ shouldn’t be under-estimated in the win. While Kevin took all the plaudits, Alex’s contribution in the partnership was equally as important. He hit boundaries at exactly the right time, and the over rate was never allowed to get out of hand. When I came to the crease I knew we were always going to win – no other thought was in my mind. We had missed a golden opportunity against Bangladesh – there was no way we were going to mess this one up.
The feeling when I hit the winning boundary off Jimmy Anderson was just one of sheer joy and emotion. I knew just what it meant to all our supporters who had laid out a lot of money to support us here, and also to everyone back home in Ireland.
The country is going through a tough period economically at present, and the win gave everyone a much needed boost. The reaction to a win over the ‘Old enemy’ has been fantastic and we dominated the media for days after – not something we’ve been used to over the years. Already there are reports of clubs getting calls from school kids wanting to take up the game, and this is exactly the type of legacy that we’re looking for. We’ve raised the numbers playing the game from 15,000 to 25,000 and we’ve ambitions to get that up to 50,000 in the next few years – the result against England will help us in that ambition.
A quick word about the post match celebrations – we partied at the ground and soaked up the atmosphere until after midnight, before going back to the hotel where they had laid on a private room for us. We partied until 3am before going back to the skipper’s room for a few more celebrations.
Just a quick word of praise and thanks to Andrew Strauss, Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior who attended the post match celebrations. I don’t know if I had been as gracious in similar circumstances.
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