As 2018 draws to a close Irish cricket as it always seems to be, is at a crossroads. However in contrast to many previous years as an Associate, Full membership ensures a varied and full fixture calendar for 2019.

The next 12 months sees no fewer than five Full Members visiting Irish shores, as well as a tour against Afghanistan which will see the teams face each other across all formats in India, culminating in their second Test.

The highlight of 2019 will undoubtedly be Ireland's third Test match, when they take on England at Lord's in July - it doesn't get any better than that.

While Ireland's inclusion in Test cricket is seen as folly by some, there's no doubt that it remains the pinnacle of the sport despite dwindling attendances across the globe.

Ireland's debut against Pakistan last May at Malahide was the undoubted highlight of the 2018 season. It was a great and at times emotional occasion, with Ireland holding their own against Pakistan, and indeed at one stage threatening to pull off victory.

Cricket Ireland get their fair share of criticism, but this was one event that was handled well on and off the field. Everyone went out of their way to recognize the contribution of all that had made this day a possibility, and the players in particular paid tribute to those that had worn the shamrock ahead of them.

Ireland played 23 games in total in 2018, including 14 ODI's and 8 T20I's, but it was the Test that stood out head and shoulders above all else.

It was a privilege to be there as Kevin O'Brien's scored Ireland's first Test century, and the joy on the faces of his wife Ruth-Anne, and parents Ginger and Camilla was a memory I'll always treasure.

However, the Test match aside, it was in truth a relatively disappointing 2018 on the field of play with the failure to make the 2019 World Cup a huge blow.

The season had started well with six ODI's wins on the trot beating the UAE and Scotland twice, and starting the World Cup Qualification tournament well with wins over The Netherlands and Papua New Guinea.

Missed chances let the West Indies off the hook, but Paul Stirling's hundred saw the Irish hammer the UAE to get the campaign back on track.

The Super Six phase started disastrously as they were thrashed by hosts Zimbabwe, but their hopes remained alive after a win over Scotland courtesy of Andy Balbirnie's 105.

A series of results went their way which meant the final game against Afghanistan turned into a winner-takes-all clash. Unfortunately the Irish were second best on the day, missing out on the bonanza of a World Cup in England.

The Irish finished the year with a three-match home ODI series against the Afghans, losing twice to finish the year with 9 wins and 5 losses  in their 14 ODI's - three of the five defeats against the Asian side.

Ireland's T20 woes continued despite a change in captain, when Gary Wilson took over the role from William Porterfield.

They played eight matches, winning just one, against Scotland - with whom they also tied. There were two losses against The Netherlands, India and Afghanistan.

The India games were played in front of sell-outs crowds at a sun-drenched Malahide, but the games were one-sided affairs. Still James Shannon's hard-hit 60, and Peter Chase dismissing Kohli, Raina, Sharma and Dhoni will be one to tell the grand-children.

While India's dominance wasn't surprising, the sight of Afghanistan hammering the Irish at Bready was an indication of the diverging paths the two countries have taken in the format in the past five years.

Retirements dominated the headlines as the year drew to a close, with Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien and John Anderson all calling it a day, while the Women's T20 World Cup conclusion saw Clare Shillington, Ciara Metcalfe and the Joyce twins hanging up the boots.

Those seven leave very big boots to fill, and it will be fascinating to see who emerges from the pack in 2019 to cement regular places in the team.

Ireland Wolves start a tour of Sri Lanka this week, and for the batters especially there is the carrot of a possible Test match berth if they can take advantage and stake their claim.

James McCollum and James Shannon would appear to be the front-runners, but Harry Tector's appointment as skipper for the tour is evidence of the esteem in which he is held by Ireland Head Coach Graham Ford and the selectors.

There's no shortage of action for the Irish in 2019 with plenty of opportunities to be grasped by those selected.

While there were no new caps awarded in 2018, you get the feeling that will change in 2019, with the T20 squad in particular needing a freshening up.

It all promises to be an exciting time, and hopefully the Irish can rediscover their mojo in time for the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in October - the prize of a T20 World Cup berth in Australia in 2020 at stake.

IRELAND BATTING 2018

# Name Club Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Ave
1 EC Joyce Ireland 8 9 2 352 116* 50.29 511 68.88 1 2 1 37 1 50.29
2 A Balbirnie Ireland 21 22 - 662 105 30.09 849 77.97 2 5 4 68 4 30.09
3 PR Stirling Ireland 23 24 - 704 126 29.33 786 89.57 1 4 3 80 16 29.33
4 WTS Porterfield Ireland 20 21 - 607 139 28.90 864 70.25 2 1 3 62 9 28.90
5 GC Wilson Ireland 22 22 5 466 58 27.41 610 76.39 - 2 1 29 8 27.41
6 KJ O'Brien Ireland 23 24 3 567 118 27.00 619 91.60 1 1 1 51 14 27.00
7 NJ O'Brien Ireland 15 16 - 356 70 22.25 424 83.96 - 3 1 34 9 22.25
8 Simi Singh Ireland 15 15 2 260 57* 20.00 293 88.74 - 1 3 18 8 20.00
9 JNK Shannon Ireland 6 6 - 109 60 18.17 77 141.56 - 1 - 13 6 18.17
10 BJ McCarthy Ireland 13 5 3 35 17* 17.50 32 109.38 - - - - 2 17.50
11 GH Dockrell Ireland 15 10 5 83 22* 16.60 100 83.00 - - - 4 2 16.60
12 AR McBrine Ireland 11 8 4 66 16 16.50 117 56.41 - - - 2 1 16.50
13 SR Thompson Ireland 9 10 2 115 53 14.38 188 61.17 - 1 - 11 1 14.38
14 SW Poynter Ireland 6 5 3 18 7 9.00 27 66.67 - - - - - 9.00
15 TE Kane Ireland 2 3 - 22 14 7.33 101 21.78 - - 1 3 - 7.33
16 WB Rankin Ireland 18 10 2 51 17 6.38 111 45.95 - - 2 3 2 6.38
17 TJ Murtagh Ireland 11 7 3 23 5* 5.75 52 44.23 - - - 2 - 5.75
18 PKD Chase Ireland 12 6 4 11 4* 5.50 17 64.71 - - 1 1 - 5.50
19 J Little Ireland 2 2 1 1 1* 1.00 4 25.00 - - 1 - - 1.00

IRELAND BOWLING 2018

# Name Club Mat Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 5WI 10WM Ave
1 TJ Murtagh Ireland 11 129 18 457 28 4-30 16.32 3.54 27.64 - - 16.32
2 Simi Singh Ireland 15 69.5 2 360 17 3-15 21.18 5.16 24.65 - - 21.18
3 J Little Ireland 2 8 - 68 3 2-20 22.67 8.50 16.00 - - 22.67
4 WB Rankin Ireland 18 165 17 720 30 4-15 24.00 4.36 33.00 - - 24.00
5 BJ McCarthy Ireland 13 96.2 3 576 22 3-26 26.18 5.98 26.27 - - 26.18
6 KJ O'Brien Ireland 23 95.2 5 535 18 4-41 29.72 5.61 31.78 - - 29.72
7 PKD Chase Ireland 12 74 2 485 16 4-35 30.31 6.55 27.75 - - 30.31
8 AR McBrine Ireland 11 93.5 5 377 11 3-38 34.27 4.02 51.18 - - 34.27
9 SR Thompson Ireland 9 49 8 246 6 3-62 41.00 5.02 49.00 - - 41.00
10 GH Dockrell Ireland 15 93 2 523 12 2-15 43.58 5.62 46.50 - - 43.58
11 PR Stirling Ireland 23 22 - 165 3 1-10 55.00 7.50 44.00 - - 55.00
12 TE Kane Ireland 2 30 3 153 2 2-50 76.50 5.10 90.00 - - 76.50