Tim Murtagh has announced his retirement from Ireland duty after signing a two-year contract extension with Middlesex. The decision, forced in part by the change to ECB regulations that would have seen him classed as an overseas player had his continued his international career, means Murtagh's final outing in an Ireland shirt was his honours board-worthy performance in their maiden Test at Lord's.
Murtagh, 38, has instead committed to Middlesex, where he has taken almost 1000 wickets since moving from Surrey in 2007. He was first capped by Ireland in 2012, qualifying through his Irish grandparents, and went on to feature in all three formats, delivering their first ball as a Test nation at Malahide last year.
However, with Ireland's rise to Test status came the ECB's decision to revoke their status as non-overseas players. With that rule due to come into effect from next summer, Murtagh has lived up to his word after telling Middlesex's director of cricket, Angus Fraser, that he would stick with the county if required to make the choice. Several Irish players have been forced to give up county contracts in recent times, including Paul Stirling at Middlesex.
"This is a day that I have known has been coming for a few years since the ECB changed their regulations, but it hasn't made the decision any easier," Murtagh said. "I've had eight great years playing international cricket and loved every minute of it. It's sad that it has come to an end but a decision that I have made my peace with.
"I made a promise to Angus Fraser when I first started playing international cricket that if I ever had to make a choice between playing for Ireland or rewarding Middlesex for the commitment they'd shown to me over the years, that I would commit to finishing my playing days at Lord's.
"Having been a member of the Middlesex family for over a decade now, I believe that with the additions we've made over the winter, we have one of the most promising squads here now that I've ever been a part of.
"I wouldn't have committed my future to Middlesex unless I felt that the club shared my ambition to win trophies and we have a huge amount of young talent here to drive us forwards towards that goal. Under the new coaching regime, we've got a harmonious dressing room that is excited for the new season to get underway and a new captain that everyone is keen to impress."
Murtagh made his T20I and ODI debuts within a few days of each other in July 2012, although his hopes of playing at the 2015 World Cup were dashed by a foot injury. He was part of the 2016 World T20 team, before making three Test appearances as Ireland rose to Full Member status at the ICC.
Each of them were memorable: he opened the bowling against Pakistan in 2018, taking six wickets as Ireland briefly threatened an upset; against Afghanistan, in Dehradun, he scored a maiden Test fifty batting at No. 11; and then at Lord's earlier this year, his five-wicket haul saw England dismissed before lunch on the first day, although Ireland then collapsed themselves in the second innings as the wait for a first Test win went on.
"On behalf of the management and staff of Cricket Ireland I'd like to thank Tim for his eight years of service to Irish cricket," Cricket Ireland's performance director, Richard Holdsworth, said. "It only seems like the other day that we were organising the paperwork to allow him to declare for Ireland - while you always hope for the best when opportunities like that arise, little did we know the impact he would have on the international setup.
"Irish cricket has been on quite a journey over the last decade, and Tim has certainly played a key role in our rise. That the Lord's Test will be his last game for us is very appropriate, and he certainly gave a lot of Irish fans great pleasure on that first morning having written his name on the honours board before lunch.
"We know how hard the decision was for him, but we wish Tim, Karina and his family well. I would also like to thank Angus Fraser and all at Middlesex Cricket for their support and flexibility in working with us on Tim's availability for internationals and tours. Cricket Ireland and Middlesex have had a great relationship over many years, and it is always appreciated when club and country can work so well together for the benefit of the player."
Murtagh is set to play on into his 40s with Middlesex, with the club aiming to push for promotion in the Championship next season. Middlesex finished a disappointing eighth in Division Two in 2019, with Dawid Malan resigning the captaincy and subsequently moving to Yorkshire; they will be led next year by Australia batsman Peter Handscomb.
Middlesex's head coach, Stuart Law, said: "To have Murts commit to Middlesex for the future is really great news for the club. It has been a tough decision for him no doubt, but we are looking forward to seeing him continue to provide the team with quality and experience.
"A vital member of our squad, both on and off the field, I look forward to working with him again in 2020."