World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015
Ireland still the team to beat despite bowling concerns
IRELAND will still be the team to beat despite recent blips with their bowling attack, which seems to have never recovered from the loss of the inspirational Trent Johnston and the dangerous Boyd Rankin.
Tim Murtagh had retired from the shortest format along with Ed Joyce, while Max Sorensen remains out of favour with the selectors.
Tyrone Kane emerged the big winner out of the recent series loss against Scotland. The Merrion all-rounder is a deceptively quick medium pacer whose skiddy style saw him collect three wickets in his first over of international cricket.
The veteran Alex Cusack remains the 'go to' bowler for skipper William Porterfield, while Craig Young has shown glimpses of his potential in the longer formats, but remains relatively untried at T20 level.
The criticism of the Irish attack is over the lack of variety - the medium pace battery of Kevin O'Brien, Kane, Stuart Thompson, Graeme McCarter and John Mooney have proved cannon fodder for top level batting sides, but they aren't alone in the batting dominated modern era.
In the slow bowling department, left arm spinner George Dockrell is a canny performer who rarely lets the side down, while Paul Stirling can be relied upon to keep things tight. Andrew McBrine is expected to play a role as pitches deteriorate as the tournament reaches the latter stages.
They have assembled a powerful batting unit, with the opening partnership of Paul Stirling and William Porterfield a tried and trusted formula on which much of the success has been based.
Many of the Irish batters have county experience and in Kevin O'Brien have one of the best exponents of the T20 game. Gary Wilson, Niall O'Brien, Andrew Balbirnie and John Mooney complete a top seven that will be expected to keep Ireland in the success they have been accustomed to.
Two advantages for the Irish will be the bonus of playing their games in home territory, plus the fitness levels garnered from being a full-time professional squad.
Star Man: Paul Stirling. The pugnacious opener has the capacity to dismantle any attack with his powerful, clean striking of the ball.
Players to watch: Kevin O'Brien has the power to clear any boundary and will play a key role in the middle order. George Dockrell will provide much needed variety with his guile in the bowling department, while Ireland are lucky to have three quality keeper batsmen in Niall O'Brien, Gary Wilson and Stuart Poynter.
CricketEurope verdict: It would be a major shock if Ireland didn't make the last four, while the squad themselves will be targetting a third consecutive final triumph. They along with Afganistan remain the team to beat, although The Netherlands and Scotland in familiar conditions won't be too far away.
IRELAND: William Porterfield (captain), Andrew Balbirnie, Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Tyrone Kane, Andrew McBrine, Graeme McCarter, John Mooney, Kevin O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, Stuart Poynter, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson, Craig Young