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Ex-Ireland captain Johnston would welcome return as head coach - but not just yet

The 42-year-old is currently head coach of New South Wales and is in talks to sign a new contract with the club.

Johnston is seen as the perfect candidate for the Ireland job.
Johnston is seen as the perfect candidate for the Ireland job.
Image: Inpho

TRENT JOHNSTON, THE former Ireland captain, has said he would ‘love the opportunity’ to come back and coach the national team but admits the time isn’t quite right as he prepares to sign a new contract with New South Wales.

The 42-year-old has been in charge of the Australian first-class team for the last two years and is currently in negotiations with the club over a contract extension for the 2017/18 season.

It means Johnston isn’t considering a return to Ireland in the immediate future but it’s no secret that the former all-rounder, who retired in December 2013, is keen to work with Cricket Ireland again.

“I’d certainly love to come back and do something with Irish cricket in the future,” he told The42.

“I’m not too sure if the time is right now for me but I think getting back there and putting something back into Irish cricket is something I want to do.

“I’d love the opportunity and I’ve spoken to Warren [Deutrom, Cricket Ireland CEO] about that when I was over in Ireland 18 months ago. He’s fully aware of where I stand so if it happens, it happens and that would be great.”

The position of the current head coach, John Bracewell, has come under increased scrutiny this week following the heavy defeat to Afghanistan in the ICC Intercontinental Cup.

Bracewell has struggled to make the same impact as his predecessors Adi Birrell and Phil Simmons with the team experiencing an alarming downturn in fortunes since he took over the reins in May 2015.

Trent Johnston Johnston spent time as Leinster Lightning and the Irish women's coach before moving back to Australia. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Thursday’s innings and 172-run loss in Greater Noida has raised serious question marks over Bracewell’s future with the Kiwi’s contract set to expire in October of this year.

There is a growing disquiet among supporters and calls have been made for Cricket Ireland to sack Bracewell after a string of disappointing performances and results.

But any such action is unlikely as the governing body would have to pay Bracewell compensation should they terminate his contract seven months early.

Cricket Ireland’s performance director, Richard Holdsworth, yesterday told The42 that Bracewell had his full support but, at the same time, hinted that the team’s performances over the course of a busy home summer will have a major bearing on their decision.

“If we’re highly competitive and lose games closely then that’s a huge improvement but what we don’t want to be seeing is that we’re well beaten in games and therefore not being competitive,” Holdsworth explained.

“That’s a concern because I believe we have good enough players to be highly competitive and we’ve proven that in the not too distant past. That will be a consideration in John’s future.”

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“He has my full support but results are results and there haven’t been some good results and therefore this summer is very important for that.”

Johnston is universally seen as the perfect candidate to take over the role if it becomes vacant having been a central figure in Ireland’s development into the top Associate nation over the last decade.

After 130 appearances at international level, Johnston called time on a decorated playing career in December 2013 and instantly went into coaching with the Leinster Lightning and then the Irish women’s team.

Less than a year later, Johnston moved back to the country of his birth to take up a role as assistant to NSW head coach Trevor Bayliss and was then given the top job not long after when Bayliss was appointed England coach.

John Bracewell and Niall O'Brien Ireland coach John Bracewell. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

His no-nonsense, committed playing style has translated into a modern coaching philosophy and Johnston has enjoyed success with NSW having won the domestic ODI competition the last two seasons.

“It’s always something you’d consider and coaching is a very fickle business,” he says of returning to Ireland.

“You could be comfortable in one job and looking over your shoulder not long after that so my contract [with NSW] is up in April and I’m presently negotiating a renewal of that contract so we’ll see how that goes.

“I’m very fortunate and loving the job I have at the moment with New South Wales Cricket. I’m looking forward to hopefully renewing and spending a few more years here and a decision will be made after that where I’ll go.”

Johnston’s passion for Irish cricket still runs deep and the qualities — intensity, fight and determination — he brought as a player are seen as what’s required now after two difficult years.

“I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me to play international cricket,” he added.

“I would love to go back to Ireland because there’s still the passion there and all of that sort of stuff that was instilled in me through Adi. I’d love to see Ireland being back as the top Associate team but also being in there competing and playing Test cricket.

“They’ve got to progress their game a lot more and continue to beat Associate teams and beat Full Member teams to get back to the lofty heights again but there’s no reason why not.”

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