Tag Archives: Ireland

Journo Talk 4: Ireland ‘must test ourselves against the best’

By Sam Blackledge


This should be one of the most exciting periods in Irish cricket history.

The country is seemingly on the cusp of entering the Test arena, and last month its domestic game was awarded full first-class and List A status by the ICC.

But Ian Callender, cricket correspondent at the Belfast Telegraph, is not getting carried away.

The 57-year-old, once described as “the doyen of Irish cricket journalists”, started his career at the now defunct Carrickfergus Advertiser in 1980.

Ireland’s recent nine-wicket defeat to Australia – their 12th loss in 15 matches – was the 509th international Ian has reported on.

It’s little wonder he is in sceptical mood, and he pulls no punches when asked about the reason for this alarming dip in form.

“The big change has been since (former coach) Phil Simmons left and John Bracewell has come in,” Ian says.

“I am sure he is under a bit of pressure to hold on to his job. We just have not got the results.

“It’s gone downhill ever since he came on board and I don’t think it’s a coincidence unfortunately.

“The fielding has obviously suffered, there is not as much work being done on that.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it to tell you the truth. I haven’t really been able to work it out. The batting has not been able to get partnerships going, we rely too much on Ed Joyce, our one class player.

“Boyd Rankin is a big loss as well. We probably have not been able to get our best team on the field, particularly after the retirement of Trent Johnson and John Mooney.

“There are a lot of young players coming through, but they are probably going to take a year or two yet to make it on the international stage.”


Ireland hope to play their first Test as early as 2019 – possibly against England at Lord’s – and Ian says it would be welcome reward for years of hard work.

“The 2007 World Cup was the big changeover,” he says.

“People watched that Pakistan game who had never watched cricket before. Ever since then it has taken off, both on and off the field, and has become a lot more professional.

“Now the three-day game has been given first class status, that’s put us into the professional records.

“It’s going to be more professional setup, a lot more money so we can have more contracts. There are 23 contracted players at the moment, so that will go up a bit. A lot of players are still doing other jobs and having to take time off.

“We have dominated the four-day game, we’ve won four Intercontinental Cups.

“We will need to test ourselves. We’ve got people like Ed Joyce hanging around hoping to play Test cricket, he will be 40 by that time.

“Whether there are enough people coming through to hold their own, that’s still to be proven.

“We need more experience in the longer game.”


Like my other Journo Talk subjects, Ian fears for the future of traditional cricket journalism.

“It’s getting harder and harder, papers are losing advertising and losing circulation,” he says.

“The web-based stuff is the way to go. I do ball-by-ball commentary with Cricket Europe, so that helps me.

“It’s a big ask for people trying to break into newspapers.”

Would Test status boost Ireland’s interest in cricket, and therefore lead to more demand for coverage?

“That’s what we’re hoping for, that’s what everybody is hoping for, but only time will tell,” Ian says.

“The newspapers will have to grasp it and the TV as well. Cricket is such a time consuming game, it takes a lot of commitment to follow it.

“If there’s a big rugby or football game, cricket is always going to be relegated. It needs a big win, then you get the coverage. If you lose, you don’t. It has always been results-based.”

Are you a proper cricket journalist? Would you like to feature on Journo Talk? E-mail samblackledge@yahoo.com or tweet @samblackledge

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Irish cricket’s future rests on gaining Test status

IRISH cricket looks to be in pretty rude health. A developing new ground at Malahide near Dublin, a host of players in regular action for English counties, qualification secured for the 2015 World Cup and the recent launch of a domestic contest, the Interprovincial Championship, all add up to a promising picture. Their long-term goal is to become a Test-playing nation by 2020, and the biggest launch pad for that will be the performance of the national side.

On the evidence of today’s ODI against England, the men in green have every reason to feel optimistic about their future. A near sell-out crowd of 10,000 packed into temporary stands on a warm, sunny day, creating a crackling atmosphere – and inspiring their team to a confident, belligerent performance against an under-strength England.
Ireland have a habit of raising their game for the big occasion, most memorably beating the West Indies in 1928, 1969 and again in 2004 – during the 2007 World Cup in which they also beat Pakistan – and upsetting England in the 2011 World Cup, inspired by a once-in-a-lifetime knock from Kevin O’Brien.

Today’s match highlighted one of Ireland’s biggest problems, that several of their best players choose to move to England to play cricket at the highest level. Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin returned as England players having grown up in Ireland, while Ed Joyce spent arguably the best days of his career in England colours before settling back with his home nation.
Morgan believes this “talent drain” will continue until Ireland is granted Test status.

Speaking ahead of the match at Malahide, he said: “If you have a young, ambitious guy who wants to play Test cricket, he’s going to look elsewhere.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the nature of playing cricket in Ireland and for Ireland.
“I think it certainly has changed since I made my decision to go and play cricket for England, but the main factor in deciding whether your aspirations are there is Test match cricket.”

Youngsters in Ireland, faced with the choice of playing football, rugby and gaelic games, will be looking at cricket and wondering if they might be the next Will Porterfield, representing their home country, or the next Eoin Morgan, moving over to seek higher honours in England.

“The Ashes is everything,” Morgan said. And while Ireland are confined to playing one-day matches, they are bound to keep losing players who dream of pushing themselves to the top. Let’s hope they can keep raising their game, and that the ICC are watching.

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