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Stirling and O'Brien sure they'll make historic trip


By Ian Callender

Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien have been named in the Ireland squad for next month's one-day internationals against England - although both have still to prove their fitness.

O'Brien returned early from Ireland's tour of India last month, missing the final ODI and the Intercontinental Cup game against Afghanistan with a Grade 2 hamstring tear, while Stirling damaged a finger in the I-Cup clash and has yet to play for Middlesex this season.

Cricket Ireland are monitoring Stirling, who will play for the county 2nd XI next Tuesday, but he expects to be fit for Ireland's first ever ODIs in England, at Bristol on May 5 and two days later at Lord's.

O'Brien is confident of playing in both games but he is also delaying his return to action until fully fit - and misses Railway Union's opening Leinster League Division 2 fixture at North Kildare on Saturday.

Missing from the squad of 14, however, is Boyd Rankin, who is to undergo a scan this week on his back, an injury which eventually ruled him out of Ireland's entire tour of the UAE and India.

Jacob Mulder will also miss the chance of playing at the Home of Cricket with the back problem he sustained during the series against Afghanistan. However, he hopes to be available for selection for at least part of the Tri-series against New Zealand and Bangladesh in Malahide from May 12-21.

The rest of the squad is unchanged from the 14 which lost the ODI series against the Afghans, but Barry McCarthy, overlooked for all but two of Ireland's 11 games last month, can expect to return based on his form in last year's home internationals when he took 18 wickets in his first seven ODIs.

Tim Murtagh will lead the attack on his home ground in the second game while, as well as Stirling, Ed Joyce has experience at Lord's as it was his home ground in the first 10 years of his county career. Andrew Balbirnie was also at Middlesex until he was released last year.

Both Kevin O'Brien and Ireland captain William Porterfield have played for Gloucestershire, host county for the first game, but no one in the travelling party will know the Bristol ground better than coach John Bracewell, who guided Gloucestershire to six trophies in two spells as coach over 10 years.

"For me it will be great to return to my old county in Bristol, to a city and team I hold great memories for and people I like very much," said the New Zealander as he looked ahead to the historic two-match series.

"The opportunity to play England in England and in particular at Lord's is not only historic, but a great tribute to Irish cricket and its journey.

"The conditions will be as different as they could be from those we experienced against Afghanistan in India - as will the composition of the two bowling attacks, with pace being key.

"It'll be another great challenge for our players, but one everyone associated with Irish cricket can't wait for."

Leading the England side will be Eoin Morgan, who played 63 times for Ireland between 2003-09, and as Porterfield recalled yesterday, they came through the Ireland youth system together.

"I smile when I think that both myself and Eoin played for Ireland Under-13s together and here we will be captaining both sides in a one-day international at Lord's. It shows just how far Irish cricket has come in a short space of time, but we still have more to travel and offer. Hopefully it won't be too long until we play a Test match at Lord's," said Porterfield.

"We're all determined to do well, and while we'll certainly respect England, there's absolutely no fear factor there."

Squad: W Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, P Chase, G Dockrell, E Joyce, T Murtagh, A McBrine, B McCarthy, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, P Stirling, S Thompson, G Wilson, C Young.

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