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May 1, 2009
The news that Eoin Morgan was today selected by England in their Twenty20 and one-day squads was met with pragmatic disappointment by Ireland, his birth-country. However inevitable it may have been, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, Warren Deutrom, used Morgan's case as a rallying cry to the ICC that more must be done to help Associate nations if they are to avoid losing their best players to England.
Morgan was short-listed in England's preliminary Twenty20 squad while he was representing Ireland in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, held two weeks ago in South Africa. At the time, Ireland were understandably disappointed, but nevertheless realised that Morgan - like Ed Joyce before him - had always made his intentions clear to play a higher level of cricket.
For now, Ireland remain an Associate one-day nation, and that higher level of professional cricket is in England. But as Ireland showed in the tournament in South Africa, which they won, their standing as an Associate continues to improve; elevation to Full Member status, and Test cricket, is no longer a 20-year pipedream but a realistic ambition.
"We are sad to lose Eoin to England, and we sincerely wish him all the very best in his future career," Deutrom said. "However, it shows that Irish cricket can produce players who are capable of competing on the world stage in the game's ultimate format. This only strengthens our argument to push ICC to let our best players realise their ambition of playing Test cricket with the green shamrock of the Ireland on their chest, rather than the three Lions of England.
"Eoin's departure, and Ed Joyce's before him, underlines the fact that Associate countries like Ireland will always lose our very best players until such time as we are shown a pathway to Test cricket by ICC. At the very time that ICC is investing in us to be better, this anomaly highlights where the real change needs to come in the world game."
For Ireland to become one of ICC's Full Members requires more than just money, however. Until recently, Ireland's board was effectively run by a handful of full-time staff, relying instead on the loyalty and passion of voluntaries, which demonstrates just how far they have come in a short space of time. In addition, Ireland would have to prove to the ICC not only that its national squad can challenge the best nations, but also that they are adequately prepared to host a variety of international fixtures.
Their development programme - which in Ireland is certainly more mature than, for example, Namibia or Netherlands - must also meet ICC's requirements. For now, all Ireland can do is continue to improve and distance themselves from other Associates at the top of the table.
"We've known for a long time that Eoin was destined to play for England, and the squad is happy for him that he's got there and realised his ambition," said Phil Simmons, Ireland's coach. "We wish him all the best in the Twenty 20 tournament and also for his one-day international career. While it's disappointing to lose a player of his undoubted calibre, we've contingency plans in place, as his selection hasn't come a shock to us."
A shock it is not, but despite their pragmatism, Ireland remain frustrated at the ease with which the ECB can pluck their best players. Morgan is one of several Irishmen to have crossed over the water to play county cricket. Boyd Rankin represents Warwickshire while Niall O'Brien has played for Nothamptonshire, and the current Ireland captain, William Porterfield, plays for Gloucestershire.
The situation was best summed up by Ireland's manager, Roy Torrens, two weeks ago. "As a cricketing country, we don't hold anything against the players," he told Cricinfo. "If you have the ability and the chance is given to you, then go for it. We don't like it, but we have to put up with it."
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