Pakistan v Ireland, Group D, Jamaica March 17, 2007

The day the Blarney Army roared

Jerry O'Sullivan



Coming up from behind. Ireland are becoming the story of this World Cup © Getty Images
How does one even begin to process what just happened at Sabina Park today? Ireland, a team of part-timers and county cricketers, knocking the fourth-ranked ODI team in the world out of the World Cup. Even saying it out loud doesn't help - it's almost too much to take in.

For the fans in the ground today this will go down as a day to compare with famous Irish underdog victories in other codes such as Munster beating the All Blacks in 1978 (which every Munster fan ever born claims to have been present for - a tall tale that will be replicating itself among the cricket fraternity after today) or Ireland beating Italy at USA 94. But instead of Ray Houghton, Paul McGrath and Packie Bonner it was the lesser-known names of Niall O'Brien, Jeremy Bray, Boyd Rankin, Kyle McCallan and Trent Johnston that will rightly be lauded.

The fans are a big part of this World Cup week and the "Blarney Army" has made its mark on the tournament for its exuberant support of the team - one of the memories of the day for me will be the singing of "Are you England in disguise?" following the dismissal of Mohammed Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq. Who would have thought Irish fans would have had the chance to have the temerity?

There is something else to rejoice in for followers and journalists alike in this incredible story - the refreshing openness and honesty of the Irish set-up. Here is a self-aware group of players with just the right amount of self-belief to take advantage of situations like today and make something happen. Throughout they have remained close to their fans and nearly always have something interesting to say.

What will this mean for Irish Cricket? Increased awareness among the public and more money - both private in the form of sponsorship and public in the form of the Irish Sports Council. These are the two things the game needs the most. We in Ireland are no different to any other country - the corporate dollar goes to the sports that make noise and provide success stories and today's result will entitle cricket in Ireland to a piece of that pie - a small piece maybe, but enough to make a difference to a sport trying to make itself noticed among the behemoths of gaelic games, soccer and rugby.

After the Zimbabwe tie on Thursday the Irish Times ran with a picture of Andrew White celebrating taking a wicket on its front page on Saturday - that was something that's never happened before for Irish cricket, and it was a move guaranteed to get a lot of attention from the non-cricketing sporting public. Imagine what they'll make of today's incredible tale. What is more, it was a win that will almost certainly ensure they are a part of this Caribbean World Cup for another four weeks at least.

Irish rugby had a horror day of last-minute drama and close calls that didn't go their way - but perhaps their bad luck in northern Europe was balanced out by the luck the Irish cricket team made for itself at Sabina Park. Ireland are fast becoming the story of this World Cup and that's something these players - these fitness instructors, postmen and teachers - deserve.

Jerry O'Sullivan is sports editor for the Irish radio station, Newstalk 106-108fm