O'Brien axed as Balbirnie returns
David Townsend (Irish Independent)
Andy Balbirnie is back in the Ireland squad for the Desert T20 tournament in the United Arab Emirates next month and is set to resume his middle order role after being sidelined for nearly a year after hip surgery.
The Pembroke all-rounder is recalled along with Boyd Rankin and Stuart Thompson but there is no place in the 14-man squad for veterans Niall O'Brien or Tim Murtagh as the selectors look to the future.
Balbirnie (25) delayed surgery to play in the World T20 last March but was barely able to walk by the end of a disappointing tournament for Ireland and, condemned to a lengthy spell out of action, he lost his contract with Middlesex.
Warwickshire fast bowler Rankin - requalified for Ireland after a spell with England - missed the end of last season with a leg injury incurred in a pre-match kickabout, while Thompson took a spell out of the game to receive help for a condition related to performance anxiety.
Ireland have retained Pembroke left-arm paceman Josh Little in the squad after the teenager's impressive debut against Hong Kong in September along with young leg-spinner Jacob Mulder.
The Desert T20, featuring eight of the top non-Test match playing nations, takes place in Dubai in mid January, although details of the four matches Ireland are expected to play, along with their opponents and venues, have yet to be confirmed.
IRELAND SQUAD - W Porterfield (capt, Warwickshire), A Balbirnie (Pembroke), G Dockrell (Leinster), J Little (Pembroke), J Mulder (CIYMS), A McBrine (Donemana), B McCarthy (Durham), K O'Brien (Railway Union), B Rankin (Warwickshire), P Stirling (Middlesex), G Thompson (Waringstown), S Thompson (Eglinton), G Wilson (Derbyshire), C Young (Bready).