Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Banned Mooney coming back from the cold

John Mooney is closing in on a return to the Ireland squad after a suspension imposed for comments made on Twitter
John Mooney is closing in on a return to the Ireland squad after a suspension imposed for comments made on Twitter

John Mooney makes his seasonal representative debut today for Leinster Lightning in their one-day interprovincial against the North West Warriors at Malahide (10.45am).

Although it is the Warriors' first one-day game of the season, following the abandonment of their scheduled clash with the Northern Knights two weeks ago, it is Mooney's appearance which is sure to make the headlines as he starts his journey back into the Ireland team, after his three-match representative ban.

His decision to make known his views on the passing of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher via the social media network landed the North County man in hot water.

National Coach Phil Simmons confirmed this week that it was Mooney's lack of top-level cricket this season which cost him his place in the Ireland team for the second one-day international against Pakistan last Sunday, but he is expected to return for the four-day game in Belfast against Australia A at Stormont, starting two weeks today.

His performances for his club have not been wanting as Brigade found to their cost in the Irish Cup first round game when Mooney took two wickets for 21 and hit 41 not out from 39 balls in the unbroken partnership of 79 which won the match for the five-time winners.

Indeed, Mooney has been out only once in four innings this season for North County – he is averaging 123 – and while he has taken only three wickets, Johnny Thompson, one of the Warriors vying for a call-up to the Ireland squad, was one of his victims in that Irish Cup game.

But then, that is the whole point of this inter-provincial series. Every player at this level knows they are just one step away from the senior squad and Simmons has already said that performances will not be ignored.

Mooney, with 138 caps, is obviously closer than most to a recall, but with at least five of the county professionals unavailable for the Australia A game – Paul Stirling, unless he regains his place in the Middlesex championship side is a probable and George Dockrell is a possible – there will be other places up for grabs.

Warriors players have two chances to impress before the Ireland squad is named as they have a three-day game against the Northern Knights, at Eglinton starting next Tuesday, but good displays tomorrow will do the claims of Stuart Thompson, Peter Connell, Andy Britton and even Andy McBrine, who won a call-up to the Ireland A team this week, no harm at all.

It is the Leinster Lightning team which appears to hold all the aces with captain Kevin O'Brien, Alex Cusack, Max Sorensen and Mooney all expected to be facing the Aussies and John Anderson favourite to replace captain William Porterfield at the top of the order.

Lightning coach Trent Johnston will not be playing tomorrow – or at Stormont, probably – because he is still being troubled by his right Achilles and Ireland will take no chances on his fitness ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in Holland on July 7 and 9.

In-form Railway Union opener Pat Collins has been called in as his replacement, but with the rest of the side made up by Ben Ackland, Tyrone Kane, Fintan McAllister and Eddie Richardson, just back from Ireland A's rain-ruined trip to Canterbury, and completed by Andrew Poynter, now a veteran of 44 internationals, it underlines the size of the Warriors task and the depth of talent at Ireland's disposal.

Because of the inter-provincial, the weekend's entire Premiership league programme has been put back to Sunday with Coleraine and Donemana, the two unbeaten joint leaders, meeting at Sandel Lodge in the stand-out game.

Leinster Lightning: K O'Brien (capt), B Ackland, J Anderson, A Balbirnie, P Collins, A Cusack, T Kane, F McAllister, J Mooney, A Poynter, E Richardson, M Sorensen, A van der Merwe.

North West Warriors: I Hussain (capt), D Barr, A Britton, S Campbell, P Connell, R-L Dougherty, A McBrine, N McDonnell, D Rankin, A Riddles, J Thompson, S Thompson.

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