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Ireland plan first-class structure

Andrew McGlashan

August 24, 2011

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George Dockrell was impressive again for Ireland, Afghanistan v Ireland, ICC WCL Division 1, Rotterdam, July 4  2010
George Dockrell, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner, is already on England's radar © Getty Images
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Plans are being put in place for a first-class structure in Ireland that could pave the way for the country to become a Test nation. Although still a long way from coming to fruition, possibly a decade, Cricket Ireland believes it is a realistic aim following the team's rise in one-day international and Twenty20 cricket.

Warren Deutrom, the chief executive, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that talk of a first-class game in Ireland wasn't just a pipe-dream and that it is a major part of the road map for cricket's future in the country. Though he was not willing to commit to a date or expand on details of any discussions that have taken place, there is a belief that the game in Ireland is becoming strong enough to support a first-class system.

"Do I think it can be achieved? If I didn't I may as well not be in the job," Deutrom said. "There is no time frame to it, but it is certainly something we want to achieve."

While Bangladesh gained Test status without a first-class competition in place - that was all to do with the Asian bloc vote and is a major reason why they have struggled to adapt to the long format - Ireland would need to prove their game could sustain a decent standard. The development of 12,000-seater ground at Malahide, a suburb of Dublin, is a sign of Ireland's serious aims.

"I think don't anything should be ruled out," William Porterfield, the Ireland captain, said when asked about Test cricket for Ireland. "It might not be in my playing career, but it could be if you see the steps we've taken in the last four years. We have everything in place to push on."

Seven of the current squad for the match against England at Clontarf make their living in county cricket and one of the driving forces behind trying to expand the game in Ireland is the continued loss of players to the English game. It is being highlighted this week with Eoin Morgan leading England for the first time, while Boyd Rankin, who will open the bowling for Ireland, is on their radar and George Dockrell has been noted as one to watch.

Cricket Ireland now offer contracts to their leading players but young cricketers who want to reach Test level still have no choice but to follow the England route. Although Ireland can continue to play them until they are selected by the full side - not the Lions as in Rankin's case - the moment they play an international they can't switch back if their career stalls unless they spend four more years qualifying, as Ed Joyce did before the 2011 World Cup.

"In the last few years we've produced a lot of good cricketers and in an ideal world we'd be playing at the highest level ourselves," Porterfield said. "We want to become a Full Member, even if that's just to be a part of the FTP for one-dayers, we have to keep progressing. We have shown we deserve to be there. In an ideal world everyone would be based at home and we'd have a first-class structure in Ireland and wouldn't have to rely on England. I think that's the direction it's moving in and hopefully plans will be put in place over the next few years."

In the shorter term, though, the challenge for Ireland is to increase their exposure to top-level ODI cricket. Matches such as Thursday's against England are a key part but the team needs regular contests against the Full Members and Cricket Ireland are hopeful of having a visit from Australia next year.

However, the international schedule is crammed. In recent times plans have fallen through for series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh due to their other international commitments which now include Zimbabwe's return to Test cricket. The Irish board are likely to accept an invite to join the Hong Kong Sixes for the first time this year, but while a welcome addition to their profile, it isn't proper cricket and there is hope that a trip to West Indies might materialise.

Early next year Ireland will take part in the World Twenty20 qualifiers to try and secure their place at the full tournament in Sri Lanka next September. There are places for two Associates at that event after the ICC's decision to revert to a 14-team 50-over World Cup for 2015 instead of a 16-team Twenty20 although Associate nations are still considering how to challenge that. While Test cricket is the dream goal for Ireland, the pressure is on them to keep qualifying for the major limited-overs events and build on the successes of the last five years.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by oranjizer on (August 27, 2011, 20:09 GMT)

Anyways the Irish showed a lot of character in the world cup. Hope they groom their talent well an make it big. It will only help the game.

Posted by tfjones1978 on (August 27, 2011, 10:20 GMT)

England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland are all part of the United Kingdom. England has hosted Ireland and Scotland in T20 & One day domestic matches in ECB program. Ireland withdrew from this as they looked like a county of England. ECB should do the right thing by Ireland & Scotland and create a UK Domestic cricket competition with three leagues: England (8 teams), Ireland (8 teams) and Scotland (8 teams). The winner of each league would be that years champion including a final and a trophy. Each year, after the leagues finish, a UK League is formed with 4 from England comp, 2 Ireland comp & 2 Scotland comp for each respective format. The UK League could be as little as sudden death matches to as much as a home & away competition. The three leagues would be made up of the follow: England (8 English teams), Ireland (3 Irish, 5 English teams), Scotland (3 Scotish, 5 English teams). Also, England should push ICC to create an Ireland test team and allow ECB & ICB player swops each year.

Posted by CricketChat on (August 26, 2011, 19:08 GMT)

This is really good news. I hope Ireland can get test status by 2015. Most of their players play in Eng county circuit anyway. So, it is not entirely new to them. On present form, they are better than Bangladesh and may be on par with Zim.

Posted by Balldinho on (August 26, 2011, 15:53 GMT)

It does not take TEN years to make a new Test Team .... Cricket needs to come out of the Dinosaur ages with its Elitist system and let the WORLD play!!!!

Posted by Z.Saleem on (August 26, 2011, 10:20 GMT)

I think Ireland team has great potential, they shouldn't allow any Irish player to play for England once they have played an international for Ireland. Morgan would have been Ireland's captain, had he chosen not to leave his country.....I strongly believe that with players like Rankin, Brian Brothers, Porterfield, Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Stirling etc, they do have great potential to be a really good team!

Posted by RandyOZ on (August 26, 2011, 5:41 GMT)

I see no supporting evidence that Ireland are better than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe - yet. Maybe they could be but they need status first, which they will not get without the backnig of the ICC (aka BCCI). I don't think the Irish administration is lobbying the subcontient enough. They need to come up with a business case that will make money for India in particular. This is how Indian cricket works - unless they are making money they have zero interest in developing the game (or their own players, based on the recent series!)

Posted by gothetaniwha on (August 26, 2011, 5:20 GMT)

Ten years time is too long , the time is now ,4 FC teams is enough or even A tours from NZ AUS SA INDIA during there off season .DON,T make the same mistakes that BD and to a lesser degree Sri Lanka did by start playing test cricket without a FC structure in place . England need to front up and help with tours and coaching and releasing county players with Irish passports or incentives for there counties to have Irish players on there books to help Ireland out . Ireland will be the next country to gain status - so lets all help to speed things up .

Posted by   on (August 26, 2011, 5:09 GMT)

Ireland will get there, but there is no reason to push too fast or too much. It is still not one of Irelands National sports, but it is growing in stature. Money is also an issue, while sponsorship is good for the Irish national team, and most of the national players are contracted, There is still a long way to go before Ireland consistantly produces talent. They are getting there, and their gradual rise has been due to the development of grass-roots programs and infrastructure. But give it time, perhaps 2-5 years for a first class structure, even if it only consists of 3-4 teams to start with. And Test cricket 2-3 years after that. I would expect that later in the decade we might see that, but as the example of Kenya has shown, one good generation of players does not make a team ready for test cricket. The infrastructure and development programs must be in place to ensure that the country is competitive.

Posted by   on (August 26, 2011, 4:25 GMT)

They need to stop talking and start acting. Get four teams set up with three or four foreign players in each to bring in the crowds and keep the standards up, play each other say three/four times a season in four day games while entering the English 20 over and 40 competitions (it would be no problem just to add another group or add one more team to the existing ones. Give it three years to settle while playing some ODIs, then schedule some tests against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and possibly NZ or WI. Playing against a better team would just be a waste of time at first, but even if the standard is low at least their would be a contest, which is what the public wants to see. If all these execs sit around discussing it for the next ten years the moment will pass and it'll never happen.

Posted by LiamF on (August 26, 2011, 1:10 GMT)

Excellent, I was hoping some news like this would pop up soon. Of course if the ICC showed any consistency Ireland should already have Test status.... But good news anyway, I dont know exactly what processes you have to go through have your domestic setup enabled as First Class/List A etc, but hopefully it's in motion sooner rather than later. Hell I'll I'd be tempted to come Ireland and play for one of the teams ;)

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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