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Cricket World Cup: Ireland coach Phil Simmons says goodbye

By Ian Callender

Phill Simmons has coached Ireland for the last time, with the Trinidadian set to be announced this week as the new coach of the West Indies.

Simmons told the players that he had been offered the job in the dressing room at the Adelaide Oval immediately after Ireland lost their final group game to Pakistan on Sunday, knocking them out of the World Cup.

As revealed in the Belfast Telegraph four weeks ago, Simmons was one of seven people interviewed for the post and following his eight years of unparalleled success with Ireland, who he led to two 50-over World Cup finals and four World Twenty20s, as well as the Associates treble in 2013, he was the outstanding candidate.

It was always the intention of the West Indies Cricket Board to have a new coach in place for the Test Match series against England next month and out of respect to Simmons there was never going to be an announcement while Ireland were still involved at the World Cup.

There are understood to be a couple of stumbling blocks before the final contract is signed, but it is expected they will resolved.

Ironically, although Ireland beat West Indies in their opening Group B game in Nelson, they missed out on qualification for the quarter-finals on net run rate to Windies, after both teams finished with three wins (six points).

There have been some complaints - not from within the Ireland camp - that if two teams are tied on points it should be the head-to-head which is the first deciding factor, but because of Ireland's heavy defeat to South Africa, it is the West Indies who are still in the World Cup and will play New Zealand in Wellington in the last quarter-final on Saturday.

The West Indies job, the team he played for in 26 Tests and 143 ODIs, is the only one that could have tempted Simmons away from Ireland and from the moment that Otis Gibson quit last August - Stuart Williams has been temporary coach since - Ireland must have feared they would lose the 51-year-old, who signed a new two-year contract in December 2013.

Simmons tweeted, after Ireland's World Cup exit was confirmed: "Very proud of this whole squad throughout the last six weeks #total dedication to the cause."

At the start of the World Cup beating either the West Indies or Pakistan was Ireland's target, along with wins over the UAE and Zimbabwe and they did just that - but West Indies' shock win over South Africa meant Ireland needed to win four games to reach the quarter-finals and the Pakistan attack proved a bridge too far.

Still, until the final 12 overs of their last two games, the batsmen did all that was asked of them. They put on 13 half-century partnerships - still the most of any of the 14 teams - and four players averaged better than 39 over the six games, led by skipper William Porterfield (45.83) with Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien and Andrew Balbirnie close behind.

Balbirnie, still just 24-years-old, has been the find of the tournament and the Middlesex professional, along with Paul Stirling will form the nucleus of the batting line-up for years to come, with Ed Joyce, who at the age of 36 has played his last World Cup match, already anointing Balbirnie as his successor at No. 3.

Niall O'Brien has also said he will not be around if Ireland qualify for the next World Cup in England in 2019, but Gary Wilson (29) and Kevin O'Brien (31) will still be available, and when asked if he would be captain for a third World Cup, Porterfield (30) said: "Skipper is something that's not really in my control, but if I stay fit and keep scoring runs, then hopefully I'll be around for the next World Cup."

The search for fast bowlers, however, will be the new coach's urgent priority, with the lack of pace from Ireland's attack cruelly exposed in Australia and New Zealand. Alex Cusack, another who won't be around next time, along with spinners Andy McBrine and Stirling were the only bowlers who conceded less than a run a ball while Kevin O'Brien, although the second leading wicket-taker with six, behind Cusack (7) had an economy rate of more than eight an over.

Simmons' announcement overshadowed the final game of Roy Torrens, the Ireland team manager, who is stepping down after 10 years in the role, but Porterfield did not let it pass.

Porterfield said: "Roy Torrens has been around Irish cricket for almost 50 years.

"He played and he's been in pretty much every role, including president and selector. He's a pretty recognizable figure around our setup, so I'd like to say a special thank you.

"It's been great to have him around and sad to see him go."

Belfast Telegraph

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