INPHO/Barry Chambers
Newsmakers 2013

'Our number one year' - how Ireland's cricketers won hearts, minds (and everything else) in 2013

A historic treble in 2013 showed just how far Irish cricket has come — and strengthened the country’s claims for Test recognition.

“We didn’t let up all season. On that front it’s probably the most successful season for me.”

George Dockrell

“To consistently do it over a 12-month stretch, it has to be our number one year.”

– Trent Johnston

“To win all those trophies but not just that, to win as convincingly as we’ve done, it is the number one year since I’ve been here.”

– Phil Simmons

EVERY BALL, EVERY match is an opportunity.

Ireland’s cricketers don’t measure success in terms of where they are — the undisputed king of the Associate nations, a dominance they hammered home with a historic treble of trophies in 2013 — but in terms of where they want to be: a full ICC member with Test-playing privileges.

That was the vision set out by Cricket Ireland two years ago but until the foot-dragging stops and that dream becomes a reality, all this team can do is make the same point over and over again.

“The more big games you win, hopefully they take notice,” says coach Phil Simmons.

In 2013 his side won everything that was on offer. In August they wrapped up the World Cricket League title with games to spare, securing their place at the 2015 Cricket World Cup in the process.

A second trophy and another World Cup place followed in November at the World T20 Qualifier before they finished the year in style, beating Afghanistan to win the Intercontinental Cup for the fourth time in five attempts.

It was the first time that any country has won three ICC trophies in three different forms of the game (first-class, one-day and Twenty20) in the same year.

They dubbed it “Trent’s Treble,” a fitting farewell to veteran pace bowler Trent Johnston who retired after the Intercontinental Cup to take up a position as coach of the women’s national team.


Johnston, Simmons and Kevin O’Brien return home to Dublin Airport with their treble (INPHO/Ryan Byrne)

Johnston is particularly well-placed to judge the advances this team has made. He made his Ireland debut in 2004 when one-off matches against English counties were the norm and the idea of centrally contracting professional players was a pipe dream.

“It has been an amazing trip and something that the guys have worked very hard on the field to try to achieve.

“Off the field, I know that seven or eight years ago the administration were looking to catch up. They’ve certainly done that and more.

“Hopefully we can both continue to go forward and keep Irish cricket in the forefront of people’s minds going forward.”

That work off the field included a determined drive to boost participation numbers and build a solid structure at domestic level. Over 40,000 people now play the game according to figures released by Cricket Ireland this year while a revamped inter-provincial competition, won by Leinster, was also a success.


Tim Murtagh, James Shannon and Trent Johnston celebrate a wicket against Pakistan: Ireland drew one match and narrowly lost the other (INPHO/Kieran Murray)

That holistic approach to growing in the game is essential if Ireland’s success is continue once Johnston and the rest of the golden generation depart, and if the promise the big Australian first sensed at the World Cricket League in 2010 is to shine through.

“The guys from the counties should have been released,” Johnson recalls, “but Simmo decided not to pull in the clause. We went over there with a really young and inexperienced team.”

“I was fortunate enough to captain that side and see those young guys grow up. Every other country was at full strength and we went through that tournament undefeated.

I realised then that this wasn’t a once-in-a-generation team, that we had the strength in depth coming up below us. That was exciting.

England’s visit to the new international home at “Fortress Malahide” for the RSA Challenge in September was a perfect summation of all that has been achieved these past few years: a crowd of 10,000 people watching cricket in Ireland and a team that was able to rattle one of the sport’s superpowers, even if they didn’t quite manage to finish the job.

But it was also a reminder of the pitfalls. Dublin-born Eoin Morgan delivered a captain’s century to inspire the visitors to a win while another former Ireland international Boyd Rankin starred with the ball on his ODI debut.


“Fortress Malahide”: an estimated 10,000 turned out to watch Ireland take on England (INPHO/Morgan Treacy)


INPHO/Morgan Treacy

As long as Ireland remain an Associate, there will always be a danger that young talent will be poached.

George Dockrell is one youngster the English selectors would dearly love to woo across the water but the 21-year-old knows that Ireland are building an argument that becomes more and more compelling with every win.

“We’ve got to just keep doing the things that we can do.

“The way we went about our business in the T20 qualifiers was a great symbol of where we’re at and showed that we are the best Associate team. The way we beat Afghanistan so emphatically in that final is a credit to how we’ve grown in the last year or two. We’ve just got to keep doing that.

Obviously we set the targets very high and we want to be the best Associate. We don’t really measure ourselves on the others, we measure ourselves on the Test teams and we’re striving to get up to their level. That’s really all we can do at the moment as a bunch of players.

Simmons, on the other hand, always sees the possibility for further improvement.

“We need to continue growing and developing, to make sure that the small mistakes we made against Pakistan and England earlier this year, we don’t make them again next year. That’s how great teams develop.

“There’s so much more people now who know what Irish cricket stands for and what Irish cricket has achieved.


Ireland’s Intercontinental Cup win was the fourth in five attempts and sealed a historic treble (INPHO/Barry Chambers)

“In the last six years, it has become a name out there. It’s not just media in Ireland talking about Irish cricket, it’s people talking about Ireland winning this and Ireland winning that. It’s a lot bigger.

“It has gone to a wider public. There are people stopping me to say well done and thank you, and you know that they’re not cricket people.

“I think winning does that.”

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