May 1, 2000

Mark Waugh may guest for Ireland as season commences

Ireland's international and domestic seasons are underway

Ireland's international and domestic seasons are underway. Gerry Byrne, 'Beyond The Test World's' Eire correspondant, fills you in:

"Star Australian batsman, Mark Waugh, may play for Ireland during a guest stint later this northern summer. Should Ireland reach the third round of the NatWest Trophy, Waugh could join the team for a showdown with County side, Somerset. Mark's brother, Steve, played for Ireland in a guest stint in 1998.

Meanwhile, Ireland's season has started earlier this year by virtue of the involvement in the Emerging Nations Tournament in Zimbabwe. Ireland finished third in that, behind Kenya and Holland. The results were perhaps somewhat like the curates egg in that some aspects were good and some considerably less so.

We started and finished with wins. The first was against Scotland and ended a series of 11 successive defeats against the Scots in Limited Overs cricket, going back to 1994. While the result was determined on the Duckworth/Lewis basis, and who is to say that had the match gone the distance we would still have won, nevertheless it was a source of pleasure to end that long running saga. We then went on to beat Zimbabwe A in the final match, a strong Zimbabwe A team in that two of them are going on the Senior Tour to the UK this year and the remainder are in the Zimbabwe A tour to Sri Lanka.

In between the disappointing elements occurred. Firstly was the fact that the ground set aside for the match against Holland proved to be totally unplayable, something that should have been evident even before the tournament began and the match could have been switched to another venue had it been inspected in time.

We then went on to be heavily beaten by Kenya and then easily beaten by Denmark.

The problem with the team seemed to be the seam bowling, with none on them performing up to the standard we would have expected. The outstanding bowler was 41 year old Matt Dwyer with 7 wickets and an economy rate of less that 4. Before the tournament the Selectors decided not to select Eagleson and Mark Patterson, both contracted to counties but who would have been available for this tour, although not for the rest of the home season. The selectors took the view they wanted to work with players who would be available for the whole season. While the reasons can be appreciated, their presence may well have resulted in a higher standing for us. One would expect that they will be considered more positively for the ICC tournament next year in Toronto.

The batting however performed well. The stars were Ed Joyce and Peter Davy, each of whom scored two half centuries, but others chipped in with valuable scores.

The home season starts with the First round of the NatWest Trophy against Shropshire in Dublin on 2 May. The Irish team is as follows:- A.R.Dunlop (Captain), B.J.Archer, G.Brophy (Cliftonville and Gauteng), O.F.X.Butler, G.Cooke, P.J.Davy, M.D.Dwyer, P.G. Gillespie, Heasley, E.C.Joyce, W.K.McCallan, P.J.K.Mooney (North County).

We do not have an overseas player for the NatWest competition. If we get through this match, and the next round against a Surrey County Board XI, we would be due to play Somerset at the stage the first class counties come in. By then we expect to have Mark Waugh over with us and it may be that the Selectors are hoping we will reach that stage and could then declare him as our Overseas player. Mark would be following in the list of overseas players we have had for short periods over the past few years such as Hansie Cronje, Steve Waugh and Jonty Rhodes.

We play our annual match against MCC in Eglinton in late May and then, somewhat unusually, end our Home season with two one day matches against the Zimbabwe touring team in Clontarf on June 7th and 8th.

July is a busy month for Ireland with the Triple Crown Tournament in Wales from the 4th to 6th and the European Cup in Scotland from 20th to 27th. These are two very important tournaments for Ireland, given that we will be up against teams of our own standard and, particularly in the European Cup, those with whom we will be competing in Toronto for a place in the ICC Trophy in Toronto next year. It may be an omen that the last time the Triple Crown was held in Wales we won it and went on to win the European Cup, held that year in Holland.

It would be nice to repeat that double. In any event these will give new coach Ken Rutherford an excellent opportunity to see the available talent for Toronto in a competitive atmosphere where victory is an attainable objective. It is essential that the bowling weaknesses evident in Zimbabwe should be eliminated by the time these tournaments come about, if not before that.

The season then ends with the annual first class match against Scotland this year in Scotland.

Apart from the International involvement, the Provincial Leagues start shortly and are expected to be highly competitive in each of the various Provinces.

There are also the Inter Provincial tournaments at Senior and various under age levels. There are also various international fixtures at under age level, with the Under 17 European Cup to be held in Dublin at the end of July.

Finally, there is the Royal Liver All Ireland Cup. This is a competition which has significantly increased in its importance since its initial introduction in 1982. Over the past number of years it has been dominated by the North West Union which has provided the winner in five of the last six seasons, and the last four in a row. It is hard to oppose them as the area most likely to produce the winner again this year, with Limavady and Brigade the most prominent contenders.

Leinster Union has failed to make any impact really in this competition with only one winner (Phoenix in 1986) and four defeated finalists (including Leinster Club three times). Leinster have always had teasm that on paper were capable of winning it, but have not produced the paper form on the pitch. It is about time that they did."