Rekindling memories of their 2007 tie in Jamaica, Ireland and Zimbabwe played out another last over thriller in yesterday’s Cricket World Cup clash in Hobart. Not only were our eyes smiling at the end, but our fingernails were well and truly chewed off during the five run victory. Just like they did eight years earlier, the Zimbabweans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in the last over, undoing all of their hard work in chasing down our target.
Despite 4,048 being the smallest crowd in our four pool matches to date, the Blarney Army was probably at its noisiest with singing from the very first ball. And they were not disappointed with an amazing game of cricket. Ireland’s 331 was our highest in a World Cup and the biggest total for any Associate nation whilst Brendan Taylor scored the fastest ODI century for Zimbabwe. Celebrations were ‘mental’ when we got the final wicket with the Army cracking up everyone with “We won’t wake up in the morning” chant.
Andy ‘Waltzing’ Balbirnie and Ed ‘Oi Oi Oi’ Joyce were tremendous with the bat whilst Alex Cusack was simply superb with the ball. Not only was he cool under pressure in the final over, collecting two wickets, his opening spell was miserly and put the Zimbabweans on the back foot. I heard that GAA officials are considering naming a stand at Croke Park after his feats in Hobart!
The outcomes of a lot of sports are decided by matter of inches. Sometimes millimetres. John Mooney’s catch on the boundary not only denied Sean Williams a well-deserved century, it probably stopped a Zimbabwean victory as well and was the post-match talking point. The replay of the catch has been shown so many times over the last 24 hours and an important question is continually being asked. What was the sponsor’s product being advertised on the boundary rope in question? No not that but did his boot touch the boundary rope? I am confident that it did not but rather his shadow over the Pepsi logo creating the doubt on TV. The immediate reaction of a sportsman’s face cannot be faked and John’s joy after he looked down at his feet told the story. If it did, then I am sure the sporting gods wouldn’t mind. Cue Thierry Henry anyone?
The beauty about each match is that we get to meet new members of the Blarney Army. We had a fun day with members of Hank’s Army, named after Irish squad member Craig ‘Hank’ Young who hails from Derry. With Craig not being selected for the match, they focused their cheering for their other hometown hero, Andy ‘Scra’ McBrine. They even reworded the Que Sera tune for him.
He comes Donemana
His uncle looks like his Da
Andy Scra, Andy Scra.
With our last two matches in all seated stadiums, the Blarney Army appreciated the open expanses of the Bellerive Oval Hill and we celebrated the Irish 300 with an impromptu leprechaun conga. Even the WAGS came over and joined in on the conga fun when the fifth Zimbabwean wicket fell. There must have been 15 Larry Leprechaun lookalikes at the game. I guess imitation is a form of flattery and I have been making a lot of media appearances from local newspapers to RTE Radio and even Indian TV. Perhaps there is a Bollywood contract around the corner. Whilst just about everyone has been great, I apologise if a certain pocket of keyboard warriors (read gobshites) are ‘disgusted’ with my antics and portraying an image of Irish people that they don’t like. But there are more important things in life than ranting over a guy having a bit of craic. I should know after losing our daughter Sophie at birth. I am not intending on being a representative of the Irish, but I am conscious of how Irish people are portrayed via my big ugly melon on the big screen. For the doubters, I am well-educated with a PhD (yes its Dr Larry), enjoy having a laugh, am a family man, have followed the team since 2003 (read not a bandwagoner) and knowledgeable about my cricket. Hope this stereotype is satisfactory to ye.
After a tough week with gastro, Lil Larry bounced back to his absolute best & played to his heart’s content. He loved running around with the local kids and had a play with lil Georgie Joyce, who had earlier cheered his dad Ed to a match-winning 112. Ed must enjoy the pace and bounce of Australian wickets as it was his second ODI ton in over here (both witnessed first-hand by Larry), matching the one we got opening for England at the SCG a few years ago. Ed (@edjoyce24) and his wife Francesca (@Franzer21) are not shy with their thoughts on Twitter either. They make the outspoken Kevin Pietersen, Ed’s former English teammate, appear tame by comparison. Give them a follow.
The players, support staff and families celebrated hard on Saturday night. Andy Balbirnie probably has been the shining new star in our batting line-up and I have had the pleasure of spending time with his parents Ash and Candy. The best man at their wedding happens to be a tax client of mine for the past fifteen years. Such a small world! After witnessing our wins against UAE and Zimbabwe, unfortunately they are returning home this week. Safe travels. Also got to meet Camilla and Brendan ‘Ginger’ O’Brien, the parents of Kev & Niall. Ginger used to play cricket for Ireland which surprised me mostly because he was born in Galway, not renowned for its cricket nursery. There was also plenty of singing with the star being Peter ‘Rattlin Bog’ Chase.
Hobart is an absolutely lovely city and a must visit for anyone coming to Australia. Earlier in the day we travelled to the ground via ferry across the Derwent River. Whilst conditions were blustery earlier in the day, the wind eased and we were treated to a spectacular sunset. Bellerive Oval has undergone a few significant upgrades in recent years and is now a world-class facility. Although if I was to have one complaint, it was that only one electronic scoreboard showed the batting and bowling cards and even worse, the type was too small for those to see on the hill, rendering it absolutely useless for those wanting more detail.
We are used to seeing the words ‘shock’ and ‘unlikely’ regularly appear in the same sentence as ‘Irish victory’, but it was Pakistan who genuinely surprised the cricketing public in the other Pool B match on Saturday. Their upset victory over AB De Villiers’ South Africans threw a spanner in the works in our race to secure a quarterfinal berth. With both Pakistan and Ireland likely to be joined on 6 points by the West Indies who play UAE this week, the Irish will have to either win or draw one of their final two pool games as our net run rate is inferior. It may be a blessing in disguise as its likely we would secure third place in Pool B and set-up a mouth-watering quarterfinal clash against Australia in Adelaide on March 20. The same venue as our final pool match.
Should such a quarterfinal match-up eventuate, Irish wicketkeeper Gary Wilson asked me after the match if I would be supporting Australia rather than Ireland. I think I surprised him when I said Ireland. For those that meet me for the first time, don’t be surprised by my Australian accent. I am a proud Irish-Australian. My parents moved to Australia from Galway as TPIs (ten pound imports) in the 1970s and stayed, like many of their generation. The ex-pat community is huge over here and we stick together. Dad worked with many Irish in the construction industry whilst played Gaelic football and hurling for near on two decades. Australia is a great country and has been very kind to my family although my old man used to joke that he wasn’t going back til he got his ten pounds worth. I love my cricket and my AFL and have been an avid fan of both the Australian and Irish teams. But the Irish team are a special bunch of ‘normal’ guys who I really enjoy giving my all for. And they have more than repaid me with some famous wins over the years. Here’s to a few more wins in coming weeks.
Unfortunately I am not going across the ditch to Hamilton for Tuesday’s match against the Indians as I couldn’t get back to Sydney in time for a conference presentation the next morning. I have apologised to the playing squad, but they understand after they endured a 12 hour journey from Hobart to Hamilton. But I will be there with bells on Sunday in Adelaide for the must-win clash against Pakistan.
Win, lose or draw this week, the Irish cricket team are already winners with three wins to date in this World Cup, including two against Test playing nations. We have the respect of the cricketing public and it is a compliment seeing so many pundits demanding that Ireland should be given Full Member (ie Test) status sooner rather than later. With stalwarts such as Ed Joyce, the two O’Briens and skipper Will Portferfield, it would be fitting that these Irish legends get the opportunity to play in a Test match before their respective careers end.
I am #BackingGreen
Larry Leprechaun (@larryleprechau)