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Dublin: 13°C Saturday 19 September 2020

'It will be emotional for a lot of people. I'll keep my sunglasses on to hide a few tears'

Kevin and Niall O’Brien describe what it will mean to step onto the field as Test cricketers later today.

FOR SO MANY involved in the sport on this island — and indeed those who previously laid the foundations, working tirelessly on an amateur footing — the next five days will be the most fulfilling, yet surreal, of occasions.

Niall and Kevin O'Brien celebrate beating Pakistan The O'Brien brothers have played a key role in Ireland's journey to Test cricket. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

No one has played as significant a role as Ireland’s elevation to Test cricket as the O’Brien brothers, and they — like so many others in attendance at Malahide this week, whether it’s on the field or in the stands — are on the cusp of realising a childhood dream.

In a sports-mad house, cricket always took centre stage for Niall and Kevin, with their love and passion for the game filtering down through generations, particularly from their father, Brendan, who represented Ireland 52 times.

Growing up and watching the likes of Ian Healy, Alec Stewart and others from the pantheon of Test greats, the goal was always to emulate them and make history for Ireland by playing on the five-day stage.

Ahead of a hugely momentous week for Irish cricket, this is what the occasion will mean to them.

What’s the overriding feeling? Nerves or excitement?

Niall O’Brien: “For whoever is lucky enough to be selected in the team, it’s a great opportunity. It’s a very exciting game and I’m sure there will be a few nerves leading into it. It’s a wonderful achievement for Irish cricket and credit must go to the players, support staff, coaches and administrators who have all done so much over the last decade to get there.”

Kevin O’Brien: “I’m a fairly nervous watcher, I just like to get out and get the job done. Certainly, if we’re batting first on Friday, I’ll be as nervous as hell. It’ll be a nervous day, it’ll be nervous for all of us but that’s good, you need a bit of that to get the juices flowing. Overall, it’ll just be an amazing day. The amount of work we’ve put in as a team over the last 10 years, to get to the position where we can play Test cricket, it’s going to be class.”

Ireland v West Indies - One Day International Kevin O'Brien. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach

Both of you grew up watching Test cricket, did you ever believe you’d get this opportunity?

NOB: “I did think it would happen, to be fair. We made a lot of progress over a short period of time and credit must go to everyone who has made it happen. I dreamt of being Steve Waugh, who was my hero, and watching Test matches as a young lad, that was always the dream.

“It has been a hell of a journey so far for all of the lads, think back to 2002 when I made my debut up in Belfast and there wasn’t much at stake then, but the goalposts have changed and I just think the future is very bright for the next generation of cricketers. Everyone who is lucky enough to play in this first Test will be very proud and we’ll all be looking to get that first five-wicket haul or first century for Ireland.”

KOB: “Growing up, myself and Niall always watched Test cricket on BBC or Channel 4 and we always played it in the garden – it was always a Test match with two innings because that was the pinnacle.

“But realistically I probably didn’t think it would happen. When I was 12, 13 and 14, even playing professionally wasn’t on my mind because that option wasn’t here in Ireland at the time. Thankfully that’s changed now and the next generation of players can think if they put the effort in, they can make a living out of cricket.”

Ireland have come along way in a relatively short period of time, how satisfying is it to look back and know you’ve played such a big role?

NOB: “When I started you got a cap and a jumper and your meal allowance in your back pocket and for most of the lads then it was almost like a holiday away from work. It was more of a junket really but it’s all changed obviously.

Ireland Cricket Squad Ahead Of Test Series vs Pakistan The Ireland Test squad. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“There’s a real sense of achievement, for sure, but it will only be satisfying if the result against Pakistan is good. It’s all well and good playing a Test match but we’ve got to play well, and we’ll be doing our best to win.

“I’m very proud to have played a small part in Irish cricket’s history and hopefully I can write a few more chapters yet. It will be emotional for a lot of people. I think I’ll keep my sunglasses on to hide a few tears.”

KOB: “It’s not just this team but going back, guys like Trent Johnston, Kyle McCallan, Andrew White and John Mooney — there are so many. But to look back it will be a very pleasing moment, to think of all the hard work we’ve put in down through the years.

“It’s a great achievement for all involved and I’m happy I’ve been there along the way.”

And what would a Test century mean?

NOB: “Oh it would be amazing, to get myself on the new honours board, that would be nice. That’s what I’m dreaming of, that’s what I want. That’ll be what dreams are made of, if Carlsberg did Test match cricket debuts, that would probably be it.”

KOB: “I’ll have to reign my batting in a bit in the longer format but I I still want to score runs and score off every ball I can. I still want to try and score and be as positive as I can and fingers crossed that comes off.

“It’s going to be a big day for us, let’s hope we get some weather and I’m looking forward to getting out there and putting in a performance.”

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