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Ireland roll out big guns for UAE showdown

By Ian Callender

There is a touch of irony that Ireland will field a stronger side against UAE in Dubai tomorrow than they did in their last one-day international against Australia, the world's No 1 side, in September.

Although Boyd Rankin and Ed Joyce are again missing - the latter was named for these two games but is now being saved for the five ODIs against Afghanistan, following his knee surgery - Niall O'Brien and Andrew Balbirnie are both available for the game at the ICC Academy ground (6am start GMT) and both can expect to play, along with CIYMS leg spinner Jacob Mulder who should make his debut after impressing at the Desert T20 tournament in January.

Peter Chase, originally called up only for the T20 games against Afghanistan, replaces Joyce in the 14 to face UAE. The teams meet again on Saturday.

The decisions for coach John Bracewell and captain William Porterfield are whether to bring back O'Brien - the first choice wicket-keeper - and play Gary Wilson as a specialist batsman and does Craig Young or Chase get the other new ball with Tim Murtagh, or give it to Barry McCarthy with Stuart Thompson sharing the back-up pace bowling with Kevin O'Brien.

If Mulder plays then, with the perennially under-used Paul Stirling available it should be, once again, a choice between George Dockrell and Andy McBrine for the other slow-bowling slot.

Meanwhile, Eglinton will host the first ever domestic first-class game in Ireland when North West Warriors face the Northern Knights in the opening Hanley Energy inter-provincial championship game of the season on May 30-June 1.

The Knights will be home to defending champions Leinster in the second game, the following week, at Stormont while Oak Hill, in Co Wicklow, will stage its first inter-pro fixture when the Warriors travel for their Championship game starting on June 20.

The inter-provincial Cup starts the season, as is now customary, on the May Day Holiday at The Hills, when Lightning meet Warriors, while Twenty 20 games will be played on Friday evenings.

Inter-pro fixtures and venues

CHAMPIONSHIP (start dates): May 30 Warriors v Knights (Eglinton), June 5 Knights v Lightning (Stormont), June 20 Lightning v Warriors (Oak Hill), August 1 Knights v Warriors (Comber), August 30 Warriors v Lightning (Bready), September 5 Lightning v Knights (Clontarf).

50-OVER CUP: May 1 Lightning v Warriors (The Hills), May 29 Warriors v Knights (Strabane), June 4 Knights v Lightning (Downpatrick), July 2 Warriors v Lightning (Bready), August 6 Knights v Warriors (Waringstown), September 10 Lightning v Knights (Rathmines)

T20 TROPHY: May 26: Warriors v Lightning (Bready), June 9 Lightning v Knights (Merrion), June 16 Warriors v Knights (Strabane), June 23 Knights v Lightning (Shaw's Bridge), July 21 Lightning v Warriors (Merrion), August 11 Knights v Warriors (CIYMS).

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