Stirling aiming to cut down England
Paul Stirling celebrates his 23rd birthday tomorrow but the best present would be an Ireland win over England in the one-day international at the new-look Malahide (10.30am start).
It will be Stirling's fourth game against our nearest Full Member country and although he played in Ireland's greatest ever victory – the World Cup success over England in Bangalore two years ago – a first win on home soil against the Three Lions would be a close second.
Stirling scored 32 on that unforgettable night in India – his best score against England – but Ireland's most exciting batsman has form against the big boys with two centuries this season, one each against Pakistan and Australia A. So can he make it a hat-trick?
"It would be great to get another start and this time go on," said Stirling. "I've had a couple of 30s against England but the team performance is more important than any individual but as a team we believe we can win any match and Tuesday will be no different.
"The fact that it will be played in front of our biggest ever crowd makes it even more special. Playing England is always a big match but everyone wants to play in front of a big crowd and with 10,000 people looking on, I hope we can give them something to shout about.
"I think the last time I played at Malahide was in an Under-13 inter-pro game but I've seen pictures of the ground and it looks great. There is sure to be a fantastic atmosphere and we're all looking forward to it."
Much has been said about the England team failing to include even one member of the Ashes side that finished the Test series against Australia last week but Stirling refused to under-estimate the opposition.
"It's virtually the same side that will be playing Australia in the up-coming one-day series and all the players will be pushing for places in the England set-up so it will be tough task," he adds.
The fact that Stirling will be facing county team-mates Steve Finn and Eoin Morgan – captaining England tomorrow, as the Irishman did on England's last visit here two years ago – plus the likely appearance of former international colleague Boyd Rankin on his ODI debut for the visitors, only adds spice to the occasion.
"I have faced Big Boyd plenty of times in the nets so hopefully we can get the better of him early on," says Stirling. "I remember watching Boyd bowling to Ed Joyce in the 2007 World Cup, on television, and now they are both on opposite sides."
And it is Joyce, who started out with Ireland, moved to England and is now back with his home country, who is another potential match-winner tomorrow.
The 34-year-old is currently in the form of his life, averaging 72 for Sussex this season and in seven innings for Ireland this year the left-handed batsman has scored 455 runs at 91. Like Stirling, he scored a century against Pakistan down the road at Clontarf and Ireland's new international home is the perfect setting for a follow-up.
With Niall O'Brien on course for a third successive 50 for Ireland, his brother Kevin – he of the fastest ever World Cup century in Bangalore – back from a successful time in the Caribbean Premier League and Gary Wilson now a regular and consistent run-scorer in the Surrey team, the only real worry in the batting line-up is the captain. But, as the ever-confident William Porterfield will always tell you, "a batsman is just one innings away from a big-one".
Never mind the lack of big names in the England team, just concentrate on the Ireland stars, who are more than capable of causing another upset.
Squads: Ireland: W Porterfield (captain), G Dockrell, T Johnston, E Joyce, J Mooney, T Murtagh, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, E Richardson, M Sorensen, P Stirling, A White, G Wilson
England: E Morgan (capt), G Ballance, R Bopara, D Briggs, J Buttler, M Carberry, S Finn, C Jordan, J Overton, B Rankin, B Stokes, J Taylor, J Tredwell, L Wright