Two into one doesn't go
Robin Walsh (Sunday Life)
Such has been the success of Irish cricket that a squad of 15 tends to select itself, but when one of the established order drops out then itís a case of tip and tuck.
And thatís the way itís been when an injury to all-rounder John Mooney left a space in the party bound for the ICC World Twenty20 finals in Sri Lanka next month.
It was a matter of two into one doesnít go and as irony would have it the choice was between two best friends - Limavadyís Stuart Thompson and Instoniansí James Shannon.
Both players are highly regarded by that shrewd judge of a cricketer, the National Coach Phil Simmons, and it was to the all-round skills of Thompson that he turned to rather than the batting of Shannon.
The Ireland XIís current round of games throughout the country against South Africa ďAĒ has been badly affected by the dreadful summer - neither of the two four-day games could yield a result; two of the 50-over games were truncated and won by the South Africans courtesy Duckworth Lewis; and the third was a drawn affair because of the weather.
Yet there was enough play to prove what a difficult call Simmons has had to make.
Thompson - at 21, a year younger than Shannon- has been the top wicket-taker, claiming 11 of the 31 South African batsmen to fall.
There may have been only four Ireland innings out of a possible seven in the five games but Shannon managed top score in two of them and second highest in a third.
It is typical of his self-assurance that one of those top scores - a half century in a four-dayer - came with his first cap. And in was in that game that the two friends came together to register the second highest partnership for Ireland over the five games.
Shannon would be the first to admit there was a time when his temperament was less than even. Gone are the days, and with them has emerged a player of increasing maturity.
Senior players at Instonians - not least the much-capped Andrew White - have had a considerable influence and few who saw it will forget a classic innings that took Instonians to a crunching victory over North Down in the Ulster Bank NCU Challenge Cup - and at The Green in Comber at that. His undefeated 99 - and 57 not out by White - took his club to an eight wicket win.
I understand Shannon is among players on stand-by for the Twenty20 finals in case of a squad injury. No-one would wish it but it did happen it would be no surprise if he received first call, even if the injury was to a bowler - a department in which no fewer than 11 of the 15-strong squad have operated.
What is not in doubt is that Shannonís time will come. And as a new order inevitably takes shape as time goes by, the two friends will hope to share many an Irish triumph.