Test status can help cricket become one of Ireland's top four sports, says Kyle McCallan
Former captain Kyle McCallan has said test status for Ireland's cricketers can pave the way to making the sport 'mainstream'.
As the Waringstown CC man admits, it's a bit of a buzzword around Irish cricket at the minute, and one we're only going to hear more of after Thursday's news that the nation has been granted full membership by the International Cricket Council.
McCallan says it's a "massive" day for sport on the island and hopes test-playing status can ensure cricket is catapulted into the spotlight.
"We want to be the fourth biggest sport in Ireland and this will help us to achieve that," said the man who notched up 226 caps.
He was part of the Ireland side that drew with Zimbabwe and beat Pakistan on route to reaching the Super Eight stage of the 2007 Cricket World Cup. And that experience was all part of a wider journey leading ultimately to today's announcement.
"Aidy Burrell (then coach) explained to us how we were going to play test cricket and there were probably a few nudges and winks around the room, people thinking this guy was delusional," McCallan recalled.
"We made the first steps with those wins over Pakistan, Bangladesh and England. Winning the Intercontinential Cut was another huge step for us.
"To be honest, although we expected it was coming, when you actually hear it, I found myself wondering why I was welling up this afternoon. It was one of those moments when something that I never thought possible, but always dreamed it would be, came into reality. It was like all my Christmasses had come at once.
"I read a lot of people on the internet saying that it's a waste of time and that Ireland can never compete. If we had thought like that, we'd never have gone to World Cups.
"My other feeling is one of insane jealousy now. There are guys that are going to get those opportunities that I dreamed of and am never going to get myself. I wish I was 20 years younger. We have guys like Adam Dennison, James McCollum, James Mitchell and more at the club who are going to get those chance. If I was them, I would be training as hard as I possibly could to make sure I am playing in that first test."
McCallan is playing alongside those up and coming stars at Waringstown - a success story of local club cricket. There are other clubs that do not boast such a healthy position, with some teams forced to concede matches as they are unable to field teams. McCallan is hopeful Thursday afternoon's news can be good news for the local as well as national game.
"We want to be the fourth biggest sport in Ireland and this will help us to achieve that," he said.
"There is no question there are challenges for the game. Rugby is in schools from a young age along with football and GAA. There are a lot of competing sports but what a great incentive this is for young players. My hope is that clubs will see the opportunity and let's grow this from the bottom up as well as from the top down."
For Irish cricket, Thursday's announcement certainly marks a new dawn, one that McCallan hopes will bring the sport into the 'mainstream'.
Belfast Telegraph Digital