What next for Irish cricket?

Ireland's Andrew McBrine bowling during their World Cup win over the West Indies. Picture by Chris Symes/INPHO
Ireland's Andrew McBrine bowling during their World Cup win over the West Indies. Picture by Chris Symes/INPHO

On the back of their most impressive World Cup showing so far, the sky should be the limit for the Irish cricket team.

Instead they are facing the prospect of being denied entry to the next party in four years time - and their Test aspirations and going no further forward.

It’s incredible to think that since their 2011 win over England in Bangalore Ireland played just nine One Day Internationals against Test playing nations before the start of this World Cup.

Over the next few weeks the ICC is going to break its silence about the future of the 2019 ten-team World cup.

As it stands currently, eight spots in the 2019 tournament will be allocated according to the ICC’s ODI rankings, with the final two spots up for grabs for teams such as Ireland, Scotland,UAE and Afghanistan who will feature in a mini qualifying tournament in Bangladesh.

But it is the lack of interest amongst the bigger nations in developing the game in the Associate countries, which is most galling of all.

Apart from the World Cup, Ireland will only play two top teams in a ODI this year. England pay a visit to Dublin in May then Australia travel to Stormont in August.

England now play Ireland every two years, and will only do that on the understanding that Ireland do not schedule any other games against other Test teams - while England get to host world class teams.

Since the last World Cup four years ago Ireland have played fewer ODIs than the major nations play in a single season.

Only by playing more ODIs can the team progress.

Ireland now have six weeks to wait before their next game against England.

Those six weeks is a huge gap, within these gaps are opportunities to look into for more games to be played as a pathway for Test cricket to get Ireland to that stage.

If Ireland are to be denied regular top tier cricket, the only choice open to leading players will be to follow the example of Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan heading into the England set-up - leaving Ireland as little more than a feeder nation.

There are a number of Irish cricketers who currently pursue their trade in England’s county cricket teams including, Niall O’Brien and George Dockerell.

Ed Joyce did sample Test cricket within the England set-up before re-qualifying for the country of his birth in time for the last World Cup.

Recent years have highlighted issues about the national team not being able to play Test cricket.

An Ireland team able to call upon the talents of Morgan and Boyd would perhaps have been strong enough to have earned a World Cup quarter-final place this time around.

The next obvious step for Ireland is to push for Test-playing status which would not only help prevent top players declaring for England, it would help to vastly improve standards.

Ireland have shown what they can do and that they are capable of performing at a high level against the highest ­ranked teams.

By winning three out of their six matches in Australia and New Zealand and only missing out on the quarter-finals on run-rate, the Ireland team hope they has sent a very clear statement to the ICC that they more than deserve their place in the 2019 tournament.

For the entire time that Ireland have been involved with the ICC World Cup Tournament there has been a huge support from fans across the nation - and they certainly have given them plenty to cheer about.

Cricket lovers across the North­ West area tuned in each night even through the early morning hours to give support to the North ­West boys playing; William Porterfield, Andy McBrine, Stuart Thompson and Craig Young each did their bit for the Irish team.

Winning big World Cup matches against the likes of Pakistan, England and the West Indies, has given the game a huge boost in popularity across the country.

Ireland have the backing of West Indies great Michael Holding and former England captain Michael Atherton, who believe that Test cricket is the deserved next move for the country. The love of cricket is growing fast throughout the whole island. With more support and media coverage that will be a key driving force to make a statement to allow the Irish cricket team to continue to be part of these big tournaments.