Ireland to play in West Indies 50-over competition
Ireland have accepted an invitation to play in the West Indies' domestic 50-over competition, which will run from the end of January to mid-February. The tournament will be held in Trinidad and Tobago, the home country of Ireland's coach, Phil Simmons, and provides a further challenge for a side that has begun to outgrow its Associate status.
Following the tournament, Ireland will also play two T20 internationals and an ODI against West Indies in Jamaica on February 19, 21 and 23.
Ireland currently hold ICC titles in all three formats and secured their qualification for the 2015 World Cup by winning the WCL Championship earlier this year. They will join seven teams in two groups in the Regional Super50, playing in Zone A alongside Guyana, Windward Islands and Jamaica.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for Ireland's cricketers to play in this prestigious competition," Simmons said. "There's no doubt that the matches will be of a very high standard and it's a perfect platform for Irish cricket to show the West Indian public just how far their cricket has progressed in the past few years.
"The Caribbean holds a special place in Irish cricket history - for many this was where our unique journey started in 2007, and hopefully will be the catalyst that sees Ireland eventually be granted Test status by 2020."
Ireland pulled off one of the great World Cup shocks by beating Pakistan in Kingston at the 2007 World Cup and making it through to the Super Eights stage. They also pulled off a spectacular win over England at the 2011 competition and have qualified for four out of five editions of the World Twenty20. Last year, Cricket Ireland set out its plans to secure Test status by 2020.
"We won't be coming just to make up the numbers - we're here to try and win the trophy, and while it will be difficult given the calibre of opponents, there's no fear factor in Irish cricket any more," Simmons said. "We have much to be proud of and this past season where we won all three trophies we competed in has given the squad great confidence going into 2014."
Ireland previously played in England's domestic limited-overs competition but declined to join Scotland and Netherlands in the 40-over format used between 2010 and 2013. Although bilateral arrangements with Full Members have been hard to come by, Ireland hosted ODIs against England and Pakistan in 2013
Cricket Ireland's performance director, Richard Holdsworth, said: "We're extremely grateful to the West Indies Cricket Board for this opportunity. It will give the squad exposure to a high standard of competition which is vital as we prepare for the 2015 World Cup."
Ireland will play their games at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad, with Guyana their first opponents on January 31. They will then take on Windward Islands, the holders, on February 3 and Jamaica on February 8.