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Facing Ireland is now just like any other game, says Dubliner Morgan

 

By Ian Callender

There is no doubting Eoin Morgan's Englishness. The country's one-day captain, although born in Dublin, does not care that the opposition in today's historic one-day international in Bristol is Ireland.

According to Morgan, the only thing special about today's game is that it's the first of a busy season and it's not a Test match.

"It's special because we open the season with a white ball game which hasn't necessarily happened in the past and a game away from Lord's for the first game of the year. It is an opportunity to set the tone for what is a big summer of cricket," he said.

Undoubtedly, Morgan and probably the rest of the England squad are already looking ahead to hosting the Champions Trophy, which starts in four weeks' time. Ireland are, if not an inconvenience, then certainly the warm-up act before the three ODIs against South Africa - when they will have their full-strength squad available - as final preparation for the tournament exclusive to the best eight teams in the world.

When I asked him if Ireland was now just another match, the reply was succinct but revealing: "Pretty much."

He went on: "All we've done in the last 18 months is focus on ourselves, it's important to recognise the strength in the opposition but ultimately we know if we play to our potential we can compete with some of the best teams in the world.

"I wasn't able to follow the Ireland games in India (against Afghanistan), I don't know if they were televised, so I didn't get to see the performances. They were quite low scoring?"

They weren't, actually, Eoin - 260 was topped six times in the 10 ODI innings.

Even the thought of going out to the middle today and at Lord's on Sunday alongside Ireland skipper William Porterfield, one of his closest and longest friends in cricket, didn't get the 30-year-old England skipper excited.

"Lord's is where both of us started our professional careers, William was with the MCC Young Cricketers and I with Middlesex so that makes it more special," he said.

Morgan revealed that Jonny Bairstow, who hit 174 from 113 balls (16 fours and seven sixes) for Yorkshire against Durham on Wednesday, would bat at No.5 but it will be Sam Billings who will keep wicket.

He also appeared to suggest that Steven Finn and Ben Duckett, the two members of England's 14-man squad who will not be involved in the Champions Trophy, would not get match action this weekend, so Ireland can expect to face the strongest available England one-day side.

The England captain did have one Irish story for his mainly English audience as he was persuaded to recall his debut innings for Ireland, against the Free Foresters, back in 2003 as a 16-year-old.

"It was at Eton College and I was rooming with a guy (Paul Mooney) who was being rested for the game, so he had a couple of drinks and stayed up a bit later," recalled Morgan.

"He turned up late at the ground and I batted three and got run out for a duck, after facing just four balls. When I came in he was asleep on the floor in the changing room so I quietly took my pads off and went out to watch the rest of the game.

"He came out after 15 overs and sat beside me, nudged me on the side of the leg and asked 'what number are you batting?' So that was my Ireland debut!"

Morgan has come a long way since that August day when he became the youngest player to represent Ireland, and it was always his ambition, even then, to play Test match cricket. In those days, England were his only option. How times have changed.

Belfast Telegraph

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