The great Ireland homecoming turned into a wake. Barely 500 spectators turned up for the first match on home soil after the squad's World Cup heroics and the players responded in kind.
A disappointing batting performance and a nightmarish last six overs with the ball led to a 58 runs defeat to a Kent side which claimed its first win in this year's Friends Provident Trophy. A few lusty blows at the end by Ireland's most consistent batsman in the Caribbean, Kevin O'Brien, and Kyle McCallan gave Ireland respectability but a total of 173 was the least they would have targeted in reply to the county's 231 for seven.
After an encouraging start by William Porterfield and Jeremy Bray, the Ireland batting turned into a procession, with steady line and length bowling from Robert Joseph, Ryan McLaren and Simon Cook producing a series of rash shots. Only three of the Ireland top six reached double figures and not one bettered 13.
From 80 for six and - when captain Trent Johnston, on his 33rd birthday, was caught at second slip - 91 for seven, Kent took the pressure off and O'Brien was able to free his massive arms and McCallan showed a welcome return to form. The Waringstown all-rounder hit only two boundaries throughout the World Cup; yesterday he managed five including a six over mid-wicket. But his belated efforts were always doomed to end in failure.
The damage had been done in the last six overs of the Kent innings as, yet again, Ireland's failure to keep it tight at the end was cruelly exposed. A combination of Kevin O'Brien, John Mooney and Andre Botha conceded 33 in three overs but the worst was still to come. After Botha, the team's most reliable ‘death bowler', went for 14, he was replaced in the 49th over by Andrew White, presumably because he had ‘tied' Ireland's World Cup opener against Zimbabwe with a last over which cost just eight runs. Andrew will admit that was not the best over has ever bowled and this time he did not get away with it. Joe Denley, a 21 year old sometime opening bat, hit him for 2, 4, 6 6 6 6 and with a no ball also included his seven balls went for 32.
That took Denly from 66 to 96 and he duly completed his century in the last over, finishing 102 not out with seven fours and five sixes from 97 balls although his second 50 came from just 19 deliveries.
Unfortunately the late damage undid all the good work by the Ireland bowlers in the first 40 overs when they justified Johnston's decision to put Kent into bat.
Johnston and Dave Langford-Smith each made an early breakthrough and John Mooney, thrust into the action when DLS hobbled off in the middle of his fifth over with a swollen ankle, then removed South African Martin van Jaarsveldt with his first ball.
William Porterfield - who else? - then ran out England Test player Robert Key and when Mooney and White took wickets in successive overs Kent were struggling at 105 for six.
Another breakthrough by Johnston in his second spell should have allowed Ireland to put the pressure on the late order batsmen but, for the second successive week, Kent's eighth wicket stand was their biggest. At least Denly and James Tredwell hadn't the time to add 174 - the partnership against Surrey last week - but 99 proved more than enough to bring Ireland home with a bump.