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March 25, 2007
Ireland's progress to the World Cup Super Eights has surprised many in the game, but not team manager Robert Torrens.
After beating 1992 champions Pakistan and tying with Zimbabwe, Ireland have reached the World Cup second round on their debut appearance and will be the only non-Test playing nation in the next stage.
But Torrens said on March 25 that years of hard work, patience and investment are at last paying off. "We have spent a lot of money; we've put a lot of effort into developing our youngsters and this year for the first time ever we have swept the board at every age group level in the European championships," he said.
ICC associate nations Scotland, Denmark, Netherlands and Italy are the European teams who play along with Ireland in the Euro Championships at the Under-13, 15, 17, 19 and 23, as well as the senior level. "We have identified them as early as 12 and 13 and we are bringing them through the system," Torrens told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
Ed Joyce, who helped Ireland qualify for the World Cup but is now opening the batting for England in the Caribbean, is one of the Irish youth system graduates. Torrens insists that he is not disheartened by seeing Joyce jump ship.
"We would treat that as an example for young cricketers in Ireland to try and follow," said Torrens. "To look at him to see that he has made a career out of playing cricket is great and we would hope that he would be a role model for younger people in Ireland to follow."
Torrens said that the turning point for Irish cricket came in 1993 when Mike Hendrick, former England seamer, was named as national team coach. "Mike Hendrick was the first to bring Ireland into a semi-professional state. He showed us the way forward," said Torrens.
Ken Rutherford, the former New Zealand batsman, and current coach, South African Adrian Birrell, who gives way to Phil Simmons, the former West Indies batsman, after the World Cup, have followed. Test players such as Shoaib Akhtar and Ridley Jacobs have competed in local leagues in an attempt to raise standards.
Now the Irish hope that their World Cup, which continues on March 30 when they take on England in Guyana, can inspire a new generation of youngsters to take up the sport. "Cricket in Ireland is still a minority sport, but the performance here would have raised the profile," said Torrens.
"It's on television in Ireland and we're getting reports from newspapers and television companies that Ireland have taken us on their backs. They have gone mad for the last week with the team's performance here," he said.
Torrens wants to see Ireland play more one-day internationals to continue the momentum. "Obviously we have only recently become an ODI side and we want to consolidate that first of all. We want to play more ODIs. Our guys have very little experience."
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