Ireland and Cricket are the two things that people feel are not familiar to each other. Given the recent status of the Irish cricket team, one could hardly comply with the dominance of cricket in Ireland. However, the wonder is, cricket was once the dominant sport in the island of Ireland! But to know about it, it requires grave digging into the pages of history. In the mid-19th century, there was a huge fan base for the game of cricket in Ireland. But do you know when cricket was first played in Ireland? It was way back in 1792! Dublin’s Phoenix Park Cricket Club is the oldest cricket club of Ireland and it is undoubtedly among the oldest cricket clubs in the entire world. The current Irish cricket team looks promising to their fans as they progress to a new era of Irish cricket.
Black hole of Irish cricket
However, the popularity of Irish cricket gradually decreased due to political developments and class divisions in the country. The popularity further decreased when the GAA formulated the Rule 27. It restricted the GAA players from any exposure to all imported sports. It mainly included English sports like Rugby, Football, Hockey and later on Cricket. This ban and the English leaving the Irish soil, together escalated the detachment of the sport from the country. This gradually increased people’s interest in Gaelic sports. However, in the late 1960s, the ban started to lose its ground, thanks to the television networks. They highly telecasted rugby and football matches. It complimented their growth of huge popularity among the Irish people. Finally, in the year 1971, the ban got abolished. This reintroduced two most popular sports across the world- football and rugby. But cricket got almost wiped off, if not completely.
A new dawn
The turn of the new century again sparked off light in the game of Irish cricket. With success over swampy oppositions like Bangladesh and the mighty West Indies of Brian Lara, Ireland proved their cricketing capability. Irish cricket resembles the Irish climate, raining at unusual times but when the Sun shines, it makes the scenery beautiful. Similarly, Ireland gets the taste of success not quite often, but when it gets, it becomes a major cause of rejoice for the entire nation. The decade of 2000s saw Ireland emerging the top ranked Associate member teams of the International Cricket Council. It means that Ireland became the strongest non-Test playing cricket team.
The qualification of the Irish men’s cricket team to the ICC World Cup 2007 as the Runners Up of the ICC Trophy in 2005, is till date the first major achievement in the history of Irish men’s cricket. The success got multiplied with victories over heavyweights like Pakistan and rising stars like Bangladesh along with a tie with Zimbabwe in the same. Their further qualification to the super 8 stages surprised the whole cricketing universe. Also, the series of ICC Intercontinental Cup Trophy victories in successive years made the whole world witness the reignited flames of the Irish cricket.
The way forward
The next decade started with probably the proudest success of the Irish cricket. They defeated England by three wickets in the group stage match in the 2011 Cricket World Cup. Kevin O’ Brien’s 63 balls 113 sealed the victory for Ireland. He made a personal record which till date holds the world record for the fastest World Cup century (50 balls). Ireland also made the record for the highest ever run chase (329-7) in the history of Word Cup Cricket.
Since 2007, Ireland has qualified for three consecutive ICC Cricket World Cups- 2007, 2011 and 2015. Not just that, they also qualified for three consecutive ICC World Twenty20 competitions- 2010, 2012 and 2014. The latest success of the Irish cricket has been achieving the status of a Test playing nation. In 2018, Irish men’s cricket team played their first test against Pakistan at The Village, Malahide. Immediately in the next year they surprised the world cricket when they bowled out England for just 85 runs in the first innings. Still Ireland lost the match with a very poor performance in the second innings. But the challenging sport that the team played, made an indication of a new dawn of Irish cricket.