Ireland news December 14, 2013

Johnston's grand career ends quietly

Ryan Bailey
Although Trent Johnston ended a seemingly eternal career with another title for a bulging associate CV, it was not the romantic swansong he must have fantasised about

In an ideal world, a battle-wearied Trent Johnston would have set off from his bowling mark one final time, with that familiar bounce and passion, to take the tenth Afghanistan wicket in glorious fanfare as Ireland won their fourth Intercontinental Cup final in Dubai before heading off into the desert sunset with another winners medal around his neck.

Instead, the 39-year-old got a taste of what retirement will bring as a decade of attritional endeavours finally took its toll, forcing him to watch his teammates' triumph from the sanctuary of the boundary. Although Johnston ended a seemingly eternal career with another title for a bulging associate CV, it was not the romantic swansong he must have fantasised about. As another Australian once said: "There are no fairy-tale endings in sport."

Even the most single-minded members of the Blarney Army will admit that Johnston will never be placed in the same bracket as Steve Waugh but through Irish eyes his legendary status is equally deserved. Although he will always be remembered for swatting Pakistan's Azhar Mahmood onto the grassy banks of the Kingston Oval - handing Ireland their most famous World Cup victory - his legacy runs a lot deeper than that single shot.

On the face of it, Johnston was a journeyman cricketer who failed to make the breakthrough back home. His first-class career with New South Wales was over before it started and despite rubbing shoulders with Australia's finest cricketers of that generation, he found himself in the shadows. His nagging line and length was penetrating but slow and his batting was nothing to write home about. In truth, he would struggle to hold his own in any superior side.

His debut for his adopted country came late but Johnston soon became a transformative figure in Ireland's rapid and vast cricketing explosion. TJ, as he's universally known, came to Ireland in 1995 as a professional in the then sub-standard Leinster League. Less than ten years later, he had married an Irish women and gained Irish citizenship - he has not looked back since.

Johnston played 67 ODIs, 33 first-class and 30 T20I matches for his adopted country as well as captaining Ireland to Intercontinental Cup titles in 2005 and 2006-07 as well as leading the side to the 2007 Cricket World Cup.

In fitting fashion, William Porterfield stepped aside at the ICC Global Academy in Dubai to let his esteemed teammate take centre stage for the final time. Johnston collected his fourth I-Cup winners' medal before lifting the trophy aloft.

"A big part of us over the last 10 years has been Trent Johnston. He has been a massive figure since a lot of this team started playing," an emotional Porterfield said.

"Obviously I made my debut under Trent. I have played some 160-170 times with him. There are a lot of young lads who have learnt a lot from him. There are a lot of lads now chomping at the bit to take his place.

"This was the perfect send-off for Trent. He is a traditionalist of the game, He loves this format. In the last 24 hours he has not been keeping well. He would have loved to have been out there taking those wickets, but there would have been no one more pleased than him to see some of the lads step up and take the wickets. It's the fitting way for Trent to sign off and pick up that trophy."

John Mooney's second five-wicket haul in the match gave Ireland a 122-run win, thus ensuring they became the first team to win three ICC tournaments across three different formats in the same calendar year. Ireland won the World Cricket League Championship title in the 50-over format in October and the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier tournament in November, to go with the Intercontinental Cup title in the longer format.

Victory over Afghanistan ensures Ireland's dominance of the associate ranks continues and solidifies their quest to become the eleventh Test-playing nation. Johnston has been as influential as anyone in Phil Simmons' side push for global recognition and although the void will be nigh impossible to fill, TJ has ensured he's left Irish cricket in good health.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Niall on December 15, 2013, 22:09 GMT

    Good article, a fitting tribute to a man who has arguably done more than any other to develop Irish cricket. When his international career began I bet he wouldn't have believed he would go on to play in 5 major global competitions and be part of THE ONLY INTERNATIONAL TEAM IN HISTORY to win 3 multinational competitions in 1 year. More important than the silverware though is how his contribution has helped cricket to grow in popularity in Ireland. A true hero, he's as good an Irish sportsman as Brian O'Driscoll or George Best in terms of his contribution to the sport. Thanks TJ.

  • Joe on December 15, 2013, 14:31 GMT

    The end of an era in Irish cricket, and the start of a new one. Many thanks TJ for all the good works you have done both on the park and just as important in the changing room instilling the spirit in the Irish team we see today. That will always be your biggest legacy to Irish cricket. And Ryan I can name 3 or 4 full members who would be glad to have the services of a journeman cricketer with his slow 80mph+ nagging line and length bowling. I do not recall Glen McGrath being express pace either

  • Keith on December 15, 2013, 9:46 GMT

    There's plenty of so called 'stars' in world cricket who would do well to look at TJ's fantastic example - never complaining & always giving 100%. A true professional. Well done and good luck in the future.

  • Sanjay on December 14, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    Well Done, Mr. Johnston, you can be proud of your services to Ireland cricket. A player who gave his all, always showed up in the big games for Ireland.

    He'll be a proud man when Ireland finally gets Test status, I hope that day isn't too far away. I really want to see the game expand to other, deserving nations. This is a great game and more countries should be playing it.

  • Peter on December 14, 2013, 16:18 GMT

    The man is a legend. Trent you are no journeyman but a a true hero to all of us north and south. You started and maintained one of the best stories of our sporting lifetimes. You dragged us up by our bootstraps in 2007 and inspired us since. With the likes of dockrell and Stirling we have a bright future and I hope we can get the funding to ensure you continue to be there at the heart of it. Thank you.

  • Dummy4 on December 14, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    Ireland will miss his servies he is a great cricketer

  • Dummy4 on December 14, 2013, 13:38 GMT

    Would have been brilliant if Ireland got test status as he retired. He should have stayed on!

  • Dummy4 on December 14, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    A great servant of Irish cricket who's played a massive part in putting cricket in Ireland on the map. Hope he stays involved with the Ireland set-up.

  • Dummy4 on December 14, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    It is sad to seehim retire. He should have ended his career after the world t20, With him, Ireland could have increased their chances for success in that format

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