O'Brien faces future teammates
Jon Coate (Irish Daily Mail)
Weather permitting, Kevin O'Brien will tomorrow find himself in combat with men he will be challenging for dressing-room pegs by the end of next week.
The Ireland all-rounder is on the brink of his first senior county deal, a three-month stint with Nottinghamshire that he described yesterday, while surveying a drizzly scene in Clontarf, as his big chance to make it in professional cricket.
Ireland lost a second successive home match in the Friends Provident Trophy to the weather as Leicestershire came to Dublin, saw very little and conquered each other at cards. Notts fly in today hoping for a more memorable visit.
Two points are on the board but abandoned matches are a miserable way to avoid ignominy, and O'Brien would prefer to have no points and be battle-hardened for the challenges ahead.
After next Wednesday's Trophy match at Worcester O'Brien, 25, will head straight to Nottingham to enrol at Trent Bridge, belatedly following elder brother Niall into the county pyjamas.
'It's a good chance for me to get in there and also to get preparation for the World Twenty in June, so I'm looking forward to it,' he told Sportsmail yesterday.
'There are five or six Twenty20 Cup games before the World Cup, and another four afterwards. It's a good opportunity to get over there and see how they prepare for Twenty20.
'After that I'm going to stay on until mid-August, play a few second XI games, some three-day games and some one-day games and hopefully if I'm going well I can get into their Pro40 side.'
It was not, O'Brien reveals, the titanic innings of 97 that almost took Ireland to victory at Trent Bridge last year that sealed the deal for the burly Dubliner.
Instead it was an Intercontinental Cup assault on Kenya over the winter that had county coach Mick Newell on the phone to Phil Simmons.
'It was the innings in Kenya, the four-day game where I hit 12 sixes or something - Mick got in touch with Simmo after that,' explains the red-haired O'Brien.
'He just said that Notts were missing someone who can hit boundaries and hit sixes, and Simmo and I met with him over Christmas. It's a good opportunity as I said, and the plan is to impress and maybe get a permanent deal out of it.
'I was over there in February for a week's training and met six or seven of them – the likes of Charlie Shreck and Chris Read and Samit Patel – they seem like good guys. I'm keen to get over there and in amongst them and training with the likes of Ryan Sidebottom and Stuart Broad will be good.
'I was over at MCC at 19 or 20 and it didn't work out because I wasn't that keen at that stage, but after all this experience with the Irish side I want to give it a shot.
'If you can make a living from a sport that you love to play, and in the sunshine – sometimes – it's a lot better than being stuck in an office nine to five.
'I've been coaching in a couple of schools and at Railway since finishing my college course a year ago. I did advertising, marketing, PR and sales in DBS, just to have something to fall back on. I was keen to get something behind me rather than relying on cricket.
'This came up in November time, and Simmo had a chat with me while we were away and I said I'd be up for [the Notts move]. Then the contracts came in – there had been talk of contracts right through last year – and I'd like to think that if I don't get a deal with Notts that Cricket Ireland will offer me something.
'The players here are obviously a lot better off from contracts than they were a few years ago, and it's good to see a couple of guys go full-time – hopefully we can get a few more by next season.
'If I'm one of them, that would be good but hopefully I won't be because that will mean the Notts thing has worked out. But it obviously gives younger guys a chance to play on a more professional basis and compete with these counties and pull further away from the other associate teams.'