Belfast Telegraph

Rise as cricketing power hailed as Ireland joins elite group of nations

Ireland's cricketers have become the country's biggest global sensation since Riverdance, says Warren Deutrom.

The awarding of full membership to the International Cricket Council (ICC) marks a journey from a marginal and mostly ignored team to one of the top nations in the world's second biggest sport, he said.

And he lavished praise on the squad of "part-time postmen, farmers and fabric salesmen" who have catapulted Ireland into the big time over a remarkably short period.

"Globally, the visibility of this Irish national team dwarfs that of any other Irish sport and arguably any other Irish cultural export outside of Riverdance," said Mr Deutrom at a press conference in central Dublin.

"In India, soon to be the world's most populous nation, not many have heard of Bono or Brian O'Driscoll.

"But they have heard of Kevin O'Brien and William Porterfield."

Along with Afghanistan, Ireland became the first newcomers to Test-match cricket since Bangladesh in 2000 after being unanimously voted in by the ICC on Thursday.

The country had been playing as affiliate members since 1993.

Since then, famous victories over Pakistan, England and the West Indies helped secure their meteoric rise into the sport's premier league.

Mr Deutrom, Cricket Ireland's chief executive, credited his small operation, much of which is made up of volunteers, with battling against the odds for more than 10 years to turn the game around at home as well as overseas.

Once a minority interest, attracting little financial backing, cricket is now played by more than 52,000 people across the country "from Limavady to Limerick, Laois to Lurgan", he said.

"Cricket is arguably representative of the new Ireland like no other sport."

But even as the champagne corks were popping at the Cricket Ireland celebrations in Dublin, Mr Deutrom warned millions of euro are needed to bring Irish facilities in line with even the likes of Afghanistan.

Brendan Griffin, Ireland's junior sport minister, vowed to do what he could to help.

"You've come a long way and I know you want to go a lot further," he said.

Both Mr Deutrom and his Afghan counterpart Shafiq Stanikzai have yet to announce their first respective Tests.

But neither have ruled out the two newcomers meeting in 2018, with Deutrom hopeful of a clash with England the following year.

The step-up also means funding for both nations will rise, with the pair currently receiving 20 million US dollars (£15.8million) over an eight-year period from the ICC.

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