Stirling won't answer England's call
Nick Royle (Setanta)
Ireland cricket’s newest star Paul Stirling has vowed to turn down any approach from England before the ICC World Twenty in September.
Stirling hit two half-centuries in a day, as Ireland beat first Namibia, and then Afghanistan on Saturday to win the ICC World Twenty20 qualifier tournament.
Stirling hit a 17-ball half-century against the Afghans that was the second fastest t20 fifty in international cricket history.
The game was shown live in 85 countries, with Ireland one of many nations showing the match on free-to-air terrestrial television.
Stirling is now being tipped for a lucrative Indian Premier League contract next year, but more worrying for Cricket Ireland, the England selectors are becoming more and more impressed by Stirling’s explosive talent.
There is a precedent for Irish-born cricketers declaring for England. Dubliner Eoin Morgan is an integral part of England’s limited-over teams, while Ed Joyce helped Ireland to qualification for the 2007 World Cup, then declared and played for England in the tournament itself in the West Indies.
However, Stirling insisted that he would not turn his back on his Ireland team-mates should England come calling.
“There is no chance,” he told Setanta Sports.
“This (qualification) is absolutely massive. From a player’s perspective, we want to play in major tournaments – it is pretty much the goal of our lives.”
Ireland’s stricken all-rounder John Mooney was at the airport on Sunday to greet his victorious team-mates with the trophy.
The North County star had to fly home midway through the tournament with a hamstring injury, but told Setanta Sports that coach Phil Simmons rang him from the dressing-room after the win over Afghanistan so that he could join in the traditional victory chorus of ‘Ireland’s Call’.
“I was watching it in a pub in Balrothery, and it was packed with people watching the cricket,” he said.
“The phone rang, and Simmo asked ‘Can you hear us?’ I knew what was going to happen, so I went and stood outside the pub with the phone on loudspeaker. The lads in the dressing room started singing ‘Ireland’s Call’ and I was there singing it with them!”
Ireland will play Australia and the West Indies in Group B of the ICC World Twenty in Sri Lanka.
The Irish are now ranked above the Test-playing West Indies in the t20 world rankings, and all-rounder Kevin O’Brien is determined to prove that Ireland can compete with the Test-playing nations.
“We have got to be confident of winning those big games. All it takes is one win out of two, and we can qualify for the quarter-finals,” he said.