Paul Stirling, the Ireland batsman, has said that he is "itching" to get back to playing cricket and is hopeful that his team's ODI series in England will be able to go ahead behind closed doors.

Ireland's three-match series in England was initially scheduled for September, but now looks set to be played in a short window from the end of July, with players and support staff from both sides staying in the on-site hotel at Hampshire's Ageas Bowl and with strict health protocols in place.

And Stirling, Ireland's all-time leading run-scorer in full internationals, is hoping to get a start date as soon as possible in order to give him something to aim towards after more than 10 weeks locked down in Belfast.

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"I'd love it to go ahead," Stirling told ESPNcricinfo. "I think there's obviously still going to be risks involved no matter what, but it's [about] limiting those risks.

"Having a set date for a return to matches is helpful to the lads over here. If that's, say, the end of July, it gives us something to look forward to and train towards, whereas at the minute you're getting cancellations all the time… so there's nothing on the horizon.

"You're getting up each morning with nothing much to train for apart from your own personal satisfaction. It would be nice to get something actually pencilled in there. If there was a date where we had three games lined up against England, it would ease a lot of that mental pressure."

The two boards have been involved in virtual meetings over the last few weeks to discuss the details of the series. "We've had ongoing discussions with the ECB over possible options, as well as discussing the potential to travel to England with governments and sporting bodies in the Republic and Northern Ireland," Warren Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's CEO, said in a statement to ESPNcricinfo.

"Certainly nothing has been agreed to date, but we will remain as flexible as we can in order to accommodate these three important World Cup qualification fixtures."

And Stirling said that while he expects players to have an opt-out, he is hopeful that it will be possible to get onto the pitch "without having to worry" about the public health situation.

"As long as the safety precautions are there, I can't see why [the series wouldn't happen]," he said. "Hopefully by the time the two boards get together and make a decision, everything will have been taken into account.

"Everyone is in a different scenario. I think it's going to be an individual choice: I'd love to get back out there, but I think you can understand anyone else's point of view if they're a bit more sceptical. I think it's just that clarity from Cricket Ireland for us."

England are expected to name a red-ball training squad later this week, and are set to name an entirely separate group for one-day cricket meaning that some first-choice players could be missing if the Ireland series does go ahead.

But Stirling is not necessarily targeting the series as a chance for an upset, suggesting that results may take a back seat in the first few games after the resumption. Ireland's entire home summer has already been wiped out, so the chance to get any cricket at all played is the most pressing issue for him.

"Whatever team they put out, we know it'll be a strong one," he said. "They've probably got as good a second XI [as anyone], and some serious young talent coming through that haven't even been capped because of the World Cup cycle.

"I think cricket might be slightly secondary from that point of view - once we get out there, it'll be almost trying to put on a show. We're just trying to build up and get back out there. They're going to be the first few games of the next World Cup qualification process too [via the ODI Super League] so I suppose that will add a little bit more onto it."

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Later in the summer, Stirling could be one of the only overseas players to appear in the T20 Blast if the tournament goes ahead, having signed a contract with Northamptonshire earlier in the year. The club cancelled Kieron Pollard and Faheem Ashraf's deals last week, but are hopeful that with no need to self-isolate upon arrival in England under government guidelines, Stirling might still make it over.

Following Ireland's elevation to Test status and a short grace period, Stirling found himself in an unusual position at the end of last season, choosing between declaring as a local player for Middlesex and giving up international cricket, or continuing to represent Ireland but having to play with overseas status in county cricket.

He opted for the latter, and moved back to Belfast permanently after many years in London just before the Covid-19 lockdown began. He has spent the period doing his best to keep fit, reading, and watching "every Louis Theroux documentary there is", but is hoping to get the green light to return to individual training soon after feeling "a bit jealous" of England's bowlers who resumed last week.

"It was certainly one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make," he said. "I loved my time in London, and there were some great people involved at Middlesex so it's always difficult leaving that. Deep down, you don't think it'll ever be your choice, so that made it a little bit tougher.

"But it feels like a new challenge. I know the lads well at Northants, so I think it would be a pretty smooth transition into their changing room. Until the Blast is officially cancelled, I think there's a chance for that [move] to go ahead: just being so close and still in the UK is helpful."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98