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Ireland's first Test jersey unveiled as 14 players handed full-time contracts

The squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers has also been announced.

CRICKET IRELAND THIS morning unveiled its first-ever Test jersey which will be worn for the historic visit of Pakistan to Malahide later this year, with the organisation also confirming its central contracts for the 2018 season.

Peter Chase, Andrew Balbirinie, Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell Ireland players Peter Chase, Andrew Balbirnie, Kevin O'Brien and George Dockrell in the new Test kit. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

After being granted Test-playing status and full membership of the International Cricket Council last June, Ireland’s inaugural five-day match will be against Pakistan from 11-15 May.

Graham Ford’s side will wear the O’Neills-designed kit when they take to the field in Malahide on what will be a momentous day for Irish cricket.

As well as the Cricket Ireland logo and that of the primary sponsor, Turkish Airlines, the jersey also features a special insignia underneath the shamrock to mark the occasion.

While the Test match will be the marquee fixture of the international summer, Ireland’s immediate focus is on preparing for the crucial World Cup qualifiers which take place in Zimbabwe in March.

Ford has today named an experienced 15-man panel for the qualifying tournament as Ireland look to secure their place at a fourth consecutive World Cup, although the task has been heightened significantly with the introduction of these qualifiers.

10 nations, including West Indies and hosts Zimbabwe, will vie to earn one of the two qualification berths up for grabs over the course of the three-week tournament, which gets underway on 4 March.

Apart from the recall of 27-year-old batsman James Shannon, there are no surprises in Ireland’s squad with William Porterfield once again named as captain and the likes of Niall and Kevin O’Brien, Paul Stirling, Boyd Rankin and Ed Joyce all included.

In fact, there are 1925 international appearances between the 15 players, with no fewer than eight of them winning more than 100 caps.

Graham Ford Graham Ford speaking at this morning's press conference in Malahide. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ford added: “Experience is such a vital commodity, especially in high pressure situations which this tournament will certainly have — but while it’s certainly an experienced line-up, there is a nice balance of younger players in there too.

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“It’s going to be a very cut-throat competition with just two places on offer, but we have the ability to make it to a fourth final if we play to our potential. It certainly won’t be through lack of hard work or preparation if we don’t make it.”

Before opening their campaign against Netherlands, Ireland will finalise their preparations with an intense training camp in South Africa, where they will play four matches before heading to Zimbabwe.

Ahead of the tour, Cricket Ireland announced the signing of 20 players to central contracts, with 14 of them falling under the ‘A’ full-time category.

All-rounder Simi Singh and Shannon are handed full-time deals for the first time, with six players plying their trade in county cricket — Gary Wilson, Rankin, Tim Murtagh, Stuart Poynter, Barry McCarthy and Paul Stirling — signing category ‘B’ deals.

Ireland World Cup qualifier squad: William Porterfield (Formby/Warriors), Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke/Lightning), Peter Chase (Malahide/Lightning), George Dockrell (Leinster/Lightning), Ed Joyce (Merrion/Lightning), Andrew McBrine (Donemana/Warriors), Barry McCarthy (Durham), Tim Murtagh (Middlesex), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union/Lightning), Niall O’Brien (Nantwich/Warriors), Boyd Rankin (Warwickshire), James Shannon (Instonians/Knights), Simi Singh (YMCA/Lightning), Paul Stirling (Middlesex), Gary Wilson (Derbyshire).

Category ‘A’ contracts: John Anderson, Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Andrew McBrine, Jacob Mulder, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, William Porterfield, James Shannon, Simi Singh, Stuart Thompson, Craig Young.

Category ‘B’ contracts: Barry McCarthy, Tim Murtagh, Stuart Poynter, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson.

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