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Ireland set for fixture bonanza including marquee Tests against top-tier nations

Warren Deutrom says Ireland will play up to 65 games over the next five years.

Ireland will be hoping for many more big days to come.
Ireland will be hoping for many more big days to come.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Ryan Bailey reports from Malahide 

THE HISTORY BOOKS will show Ireland suffered defeat in their inaugural Test match, but in so many other ways this was a progressive first foray into the five-day arena, which leaves encouraging grounds for optimism moving forward.

For half an hour yesterday morning, everyone inside Malahide’s pop-up stadium dared to dream, as three early Pakistan wickets sent the small, but vocal, crowd into delirium before reality struck and Ireland’s limitations were exposed.

The lack of a frontline spinner, or indeed potent strike bowler beyond Tim Murtagh and Boyd Rankin, saw the game, and a historic victory, slip away from Ireland in the afternoon session, but this was a performance to take enormous heart from.

Pakistan’s class told in the shape of half-centuries from Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam, who was dropped on nine by Andrew Balbirnie with the visitors still requiring 100 runs for victory, a moment which would have left Ireland harbouring regrets.

Ireland left the field with their heads bowed, and stood watching the end of match presentation knowing this historic occasion could have turned into so much more — but once the initial disappointment of defeat subsides, pride will be the overwhelming emotion.

“This was a great success,” Cricket Ireland CEO, Warren Deutrom, said. “There were three things we were hoping for from this match; good crowds, good weather and competitive cricket.

“Throw in the attendance of Mick Jagger on Sunday, something that got us off the back pages and onto the front pages and you have to be happy. It worked in terms of this environment as well, here in Malahide. It’s a beautiful venue.”

This picturesque village ground, in the grounds of the Castle and with a tree-lined backdrop, will play host to Ireland’s two Twenty20 games against India in June, a lucrative mini-series which will boost Cricket Ireland’s coffers considerably.

A general view of Malahide Cricket Club Malahide will host next month's Twenty20s against India. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The €1 million invested to stage this inaugural Test match was never going to balance the books, with Deutrom describing the format as a ‘loss leader’ for the organisation, but it is also his responsibility to advance the sport and facilitate its growth — Test cricket is a big part of that.

“We are about making cricket mainstream,” Deutrom insists. “That is our main primary purpose. If that means we’ve got to spend a lot of money making sure we are bringing the game to people then that’s what we need to do.”

Ensuring Ireland are able to feed off a healthy diet of fixtures will be paramount to the team’s development in the format, but also in growing the appetite for Test cricket among the public, commercial sponsors and broadcasting partners.

Attention has already turned to filling in Ireland’s schedule for the next couple of seasons with a significant announcement expected soon — potentially as early as next week — once the ICC’s Future Tours Programme (FTP) is finalised.

Deutrom expects Ireland to be guaranteed between 60 and 65 fixtures over the next five years, with 13 of those set to be Test matches and all of the Full Member nations to visit these shores in at least one format as part of the FTP schedule.

But the prospect of England coming over for a Test match is unlikely in the next five years because of their ‘busy’ programme, although there is a possibility Ireland will visit Lord’s for a five-day game next summer.

Deutrom explained: “We hope to announce next week who the home fixtures will be against, because we are still in the final throes of negotiations, the Future Tours Programme with all the other nations involved, is a huge jigsaw puzzle.

“Hopefully all the biggest nations, the 11 other Test nations, and the Dutch, who are the 13th ODI team, home and away over the next four to five years.”

On a Test match at Lord’s, he added: “We’ll see. I can’t definitely give you that at the moment, but I’m hopeful.”

As a consequence of all these additional home fixtures, Cricket Ireland made the decision last month to scrap plans to redevelop Malahide and instead relocate to Abbotstown, where they will build a permanent home on the National Sports Campus.

Warren Deutrom Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The decision to move away from an idyllic venue like Malahide has caused consternation but Deutrom stressed the need to have another international standard ground available for use, with Cricket Ireland hopeful of securing Government funding for the project this year.

“If we get some funding this year, maybe start building next year and that takes us into 2019 and maybe two or three years to actually make sure it’s ready for our first international ball,” he explained. “I’d say [ready for use in] 2022.

“The first phase of the project would be green staff [pitch work] and at the same time we’d try and build all the players’ facilities and match official facilities as that would allow us to get minimum accreditation from the ICC.

“And that would allow us to play international cricket as the rest of it is all the nice to haves we have to pay for in order to generate revenue. That would be the seating, the media facilities, the hospitality marquees. If that’s stage three, four and five, maybe phase six would be floodlights.”

Meanwhile, Deutrom said that Cricket Ireland’s new training facility at the National Sports Campus is set to be ready for opening in spring of next year.

“One of the benefits of locating a stadium there would be to co-locate our big infrastructure all in the one place. You talk to any of the big countries, they own their own facilities, they’ve got their stadium, outdoor training facilities and locate their HQ together.”

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Ryan Bailey

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