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Ireland in high spirits ahead of Dubai tri-series


By Ian Callender

Ed Joyce and Andy McBrine return to the Ireland squad for their four-match tri-series with UAE and Scotland in Dubai next month, the first games under new head coach Graham Ford.

Joyce, still considered Ireland's best batsman at the age of 39, missed the recent tour to UAE with a knee injury, but is fit to take his place as Ireland begin their countdown to the World Cup qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in March.

McBrine has not appeared in an Ireland line-up since the Intercontinental Cup defeat to Afghanistan in Greater Noida nine months ago but gets the chance stake a claim for a place in the World Cup squad because Tim Murtagh, a certainty for the qualifiers, has been rested.

"We've opted to leave Tim Murtagh at home to prepare for the long tour of South Africa and Zimbabwe as the staff continue to manage his workload," said new chairman of selectors Andrew White.

Although not part of the playing squad, Bready pace bowler Craig Young will travel with the squad to bowl in the nets as he continues his rehabilitation from an elbow injury. Young has not played for Ireland since the last match of the tri-series at Malahide, against New Zealand, in May.

The squad will travel in high spirits after their comeback victory in the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan at the start of the month. After beaten Scotland by an innings in the preceding I-Cup game and recorded two big wins against UAE at next month's venue last March, Ireland will expect four straightforward games before the much tougher challenges which lie ahead.

Although the fixtures have still to be confirmed, the squad will stop off in South Africa for two weeks in February with four games scheduled against two, strong, local sides, and at least one ODI against Netherlands before making the short hop to Zimbabwe where they will play two official warm-up games ahead of the WCQ tournament which begins on March 2.

The full schedule for the qualifiers is due out next week and the Ireland squad will be chosen after the ODIs in Dubai.

Squad: W Porterfield (capt), A Balbirnie, P Chase, G Dockrell, E Joyce, A McBrine, B McCarthy, J Mulder, K O'Brien, N O'Brien, S Poynter, B Rankin, S Singh, P Stirling, G Wilson

Schedule: Jan 11, 13 v UAE, Jan 16, 18 v Scotland (all games at ICC Academy, Dubai)

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