Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Simmons delivers a tour snub for O’Brien

Niall O’Brien was has been left out of the 14-man Ireland squad to tour Kenya next month and more significantly, from the provisional 18-player squad for the World Twenty20 qualifiers in Dubai in March.

O’Brien signed his new Ireland contract with an hour to spare before the deadline on January 13, but six days later allowed his name to go to auction to play in the Bangladesh Premier League from February 9-29.

Ireland leave for a six-game tour of Kenya on February 8 and then go on to South Africa for a training camp ahead of their important assignment in the UAE, when only the top two from 16 teams will join the 10 Full Members at the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in September.

The Northamptonshire professional was willing to fly in for Ireland’s 50-over World Cup qualifiers in Mombasa on February 18 and 20, but National Coach Phil Simmons had already told his squad that they had to be available for the entire six-week tour.

O’Brien, who will receive just over £51,000 for his three-week stint playing for Khulna in the BPL, will be in breach of his Irish contract, worth around half of that for 12 months of international cricket, once he misses Ireland’s first game in Kenya, the four-day Intercontinental Cup tie, starting on February 12 so the selectors, of which Simmons is chairman, had no option, but to leave him out.

Simmons said yesterday: “I have made myself clear from day one. Irish cricket comes before anything else. We had five or six players who were offered the chance to play in the BPL.

“Five said ‘no’ when they saw the fixture list and knew Cricket Ireland’s position and didn’t put their names forward. One did.”

Whether O’Brien will be given a ‘C’ contract later in the summer, to allow him to play for Ireland in the glamour international against Australia, at Stormont on June 23 — which will be televised live by Sky — is “for the future” says Simmons. The present is that the international career of Ireland’s first choice wicket-keeper is on hold.

The full squads will be announced tomorrow.

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