ICU Media Release
The Ireland and Kent wicket keeper is free to return home to help his club side turn their third Irish Cup decider in four years into a first success.
The opposition may not be North County, Railway's conquerors in their previous two finals, but Rush promise to be just as formidable opponents, having beaten NC twice in the last month.
The arrival of O'Brien, however, to open the batting with captain and fellow World Cup squad member Kenny Carroll, is a major boost for a team that has lost only one match all season, to North County in quarter final of the Leinster Senior Cup. Otherwise it is has been unblemished progress from victory in the 45 overs league, in which they beat Rush at the start of the season, to Twenty20 Cup glory, to their Section B league championship success where they have 10 wins from 10 with two games to play.
The fact they go into the Irish Cup showpiece as favourites, against a team from Section A, underlines the huge strides they have made and, win or lose, they must surely be the team of the season in Ireland.
A look at the team-sheet shows a strength in depth which is the envy of most clubs on the island with Kevin O'Brien a third member of the World Cup finals squad while opening bowler Roger Whelan is one of the five named reserves for the Caribbean and Conor Mullen has done everything this year except play for Ireland. Add on big hitting West Indian Adrian Murphy, medium pacer Mohammad Tariq, who loves playing against Rush, plus middle order batsman Ross Wynne who has not got the chances he deserved this season, off spinner Gaujav Singh and James Rogan who is good enough to allow Niall O'Brien to play as a specialist batsman and it is little wonder they have taken Leinster cricket by storm.
They beat Rush at the start of the season while Carroll, Kevin O'Brien and Whelan were with Ireland A in Abu Dhabi and although Rush were missing their Ireland World Cup player William Porterfield it was the game that kick-started their season to remember. Indeed, chasing 191 for victory, Railway found themselves 19 for four before Murphy and Tariq led the recovery, the latter going on to make 93 as the Park Avenue side won by two wickets with two overs to spare.
For Rush, former Ireland opening bowler Nas Shoukat and Shahid Iqbal each took three wickets and that set the pattern for the season. They have shared 55 wickets and if they have a weakness they would appear to be too reliant on their two domiciled Pakistanis who have also scored more than 1,140 runs between them.
Off spinner Dan van Zyl, however, can keep it tight and put batsmen under pressure and the middle order batsman is also leading the averages, just ahead of Shoukat and Iqbal, although Michael Donnelly scored 80 in the league game against North County, whom they will attempt to beat for a fourth time in the league on Sunday.
The big blow to Rush is the absence of Porterfield who is on a trial with Derbyshire this week as he attempts to win a county contract next season. No-one can blame him for wanting the opportunity and club captain Brian O'Rourke accepts it is a case of the Ireland international being in the right place at the wrong time.
But O'Rourke, who doubles up as the Republic's Cricket Development Officer, remains philosophical. "William has played only seven or eight games for us so we are used to being without him and although Railway are a good young side, very athletic in the field, Rush are up for the challenge and having beaten Clontarf, North Down and North County to get to the final we have beaten our share of top teams.
"Rush were in the final four years ago (when they lost to Malahide) but this year the whole community is behind is and it promises to be a huge day which we are all looking forward to," said O'Rourke.
A new name will be on the cup by tonight and whoever lifts it, for the 25th time, will be worthy winners.
The umpires are Charlie McElwee and Trevor Magee.