Niall John O'Brien
November 08, 1981, Dublin
Left hand bat
Marian College Dublin
Niall O'Brien, a left-handed batsman and wicketkeeper renowned for his competitiveness and relentless chirping behind the stumps, played the innings that forced the cricketing world to take note of Ireland. His magnificent 72, which were over three-quarters of Ireland's runs while he was at the crease, underpinned the St Patrick's Day victory over Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup. He later contributed 63 against England in the tournament. He went on to be one of Ireland's most capped players.
As a player for Kent, O'Brien was already known to many of the English players. But when Geraint Jones lost his England place it led to O'Brien being released by Kent, and he moved to Northamptonshire at the start of the 2008 season. He enjoyed considerable success at the county, being named as Northants' Player of the Year at the end of the 2008 season and securing a three-year contract. After Nicky Boje relinquished the captaincy and Andrew Hall took up the position, O'Brien was named as his deputy. He was stripped of the position and banned from the team, however, for a breach of team disciplinary rules in June 2010. Although he was subsequently cleared at a disciplinary hearing and restored to the squad he no longer held the position of vice-captain and a fractured finger kept him out of action for most of the season.
Despite continuing to perform consistently - he averaged 35.72 in first-class cricket for Northants - O'Brien moved to Leicestershire at the start of the 2013 season on a three-year contract, where his experience brought solidity to a vulnerable batting line-up. In 2014 he scored 971 first-class runs, his highest tally in an English season. He retired from county cricket at the end of 2016 as his 35th birthday approached and took up a career opportunity in talent management. Although he planned to settle in Leicestershire, he had plans to play for Leinster Lightning in the new first-class competition scheduled for 2017 and did not retire from international cricket.
The son of Brendan, a former Ireland captain, Niall has played alongside Kevin, his younger brother for Ireland. But he played in the Bangladesh Premier League, against Cricket Ireland's wishes, at the start of 2012. He was left out of the subsequent World T20 Qualifiers and, when he regained his place in the side, found that he had been usurped by Gary Wilson behind the stumps and has yet to regain the gloves.
A confident character and batsman, O'Brien's combative nature earned him a one-match ban after an outburst at officials during an Intercontinental Cup game with Scotland. The Dubliner also managed to incense Brian Lara when Ireland defeated the West Indies in 2004, in which he made 58. Lara, in O'Brien's eyes, had been caught at the wicket, but chose not to walk.
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