By David Hennessy
Almost 10,000 fans fans were in Malahide for the best attended cricket match in Ireland when England defeated Ireland with the help of Irishmen Eoin Morgan and Boyd Rankin. Morgan, from Dublin, and Derry’s Rankin have both represented Ireland previously before switching their allegiances to England in order to play test cricket. Morgan was England’s captain for the historic game in his home city. Ed Joyce, who was playing for Ireland in the match is another who has represented England in the past. Although cricket in Ireland has grown considerably in recent years, enjoying great success with high profile defeats of Pakistan and England, the national team has suffered from its top players defecting to their neighbours in order to play test cricket. Ireland has qualified for its third successive world cup in 2015 and hopes to achieve test status by 2020.
Cricket is the fastest growing sport in Ireland with the number of young players at registered clubs growing from 11,900 in 2011 to 25,000 this year while players of all ages has grown from 25,170 to 40,414. Bryan Milford, general secretary of the Northern Cricket Union of Ireland, put the rise down to Ireland’s success in beating Pakistan in the 2007 world cup and overcoming England four years later: “Those wins gave the team a much higher profile, plus you have players such as Eoin Morgan, Ed Joyce and Boyd Rankin who have played for England and been role models. Cricket Ireland and the provincial unions have also done a lot of good development work, going into schools and working with young people, and that is also bearing fruit.”
Morgan and Rankin both starred in England’s win in Malahide and Irish captain William Porterfield voiced his frustration at being defeated by a team that included two of his former team mates. Talking to The Telegraph, Porterfield said: “I would take those two lads in my side every day of the week. It’s just frustrating when a couple of Irish lads play against us and it just happens that they were their top performers today.
“It’s great that Ireland can produce cricketers like that but we have lads coming through who are aspiring to be like Eoin and Boyd, and to get 10,000 people through the gate it proves that Irish cricket is still on the rise. We have come a long way since the 2007 World Cup.”
One of the criteria for Test status at the ICC is to prove a country has a cricket culture and the match, which was also be shown live in India, will help to illustrate this and so stop the exodus of Ireland’s strongest players.