This was the last season Ireland’s cricketers can play county cricket before they are considered overseas by the ECB.
And while most of the professionals of the last decade have come home, there are still plenty playing at various levels in the English game.
Ireland’s captain, William Porterfield, played 11 games in the Cheshire Premier League for Formby, where Tatendu Taibu was their overseas pro. William made 187 runs at an average of 20.78 with a high score of 38.
Boyd Rankin turned out eight times for Moseley in the Birmingham & District Premier League, taking 10 wickets at 19.00 with a best of 4-21. He was also signed by Derbyshire on a short-term contract, playing five times in the T20 Blast, with a combined record of 13-0-124-2.
Tim Murtagh was something of a red-ball specialist, playing 12 championship matches for Middlesex and four in the 50 over tournament. He recorded four 5 wicket innings, and averaged 16.67 for his 56 wickets, which included his 700th first-class scalp for the county. He also made 150 runs at 11.5 and took 11-133 at 12.09 in three second XI games.
Paul Stirling’s Middlesex summer was like a mirror image – just three first-class games and 17 with the white-ball. In fact, he and Murtagh only played together in seven of the county’s 39 games all summer. Their only first-class game together at Lord’s was the Test match for Ireland!
Stirling had a mixed summer, scoring 136 v Glamorgan in the championship but his next highest score in 20 innings over all formats was 33. In all he scored 472 runs at 23.6, and took 6-253, at an average of 42.2. He also played four second XI games, scoring 109 v Essex 2nds and 105* v Sussex 2nds. He also took 3-55 in 12 overs.
Stuart Poynter had a difficult summer, although it started so well. He returned from Ireland’s tour to India a Test cricketer and new captain of Durham. His first game, against Durham MCCU, yielded an 80, plus six catches in an innings and nine in the match – both county records. However, there were continuing doubts about the future of Gary Wilson and Cricket Ireland’s extensive programme of fixtures became a concern to the county.
Durham hired Ned Eckersley as standby, and appointed Cameron Bancroft as captain. The Aussie decided he also wanted to keep and after just one failure with bat Poynter was dropped for ten weeks. Later, with Bancroft out of the way at the Ashes, Poynter was appointed captain for the Blast, and played nine games before he lost his place again after scoring just 51 runs in seven innings.
He had a very successful season on the 2nds, who he captained frequently. He made 1,236 runs in 27 matches, scoring 11 fifties and an unbeaten century v Yorkshire. He averaged 44.14 for the 2nds and made 31 dismissals. Poynter also played four North-East Premier League games for Hetton Lyons, making 32no and three ducks.
Marcus O’Riordan, of Cork parents, began the season mostly unknown in Ireland but an unbeaten 93 for the Cricket Ireland Academy on tour in Bath woke people up to his talents. He joined Muckamore and his first two games in the NCU saw him make 63 against Waringstown and 74 v Lisburn, but his fifth game, on May 18th, was to be his last.
He started playing for Tunbridge Wells the following week – not surprising as he had been playing for Kent since U13. He broke into the 2nd XI, and played 20 games for the side, even captaining at times and scoring 100 v Middlesex. He made 787 runs in all games, average 25.38, and took 52 wickets at 27.5 with a match best of 4-74 and 5-83 v Sussex 2nd XI.
He also made 113 for Tunbridge Wells in a Kent Premier League game. O’Riordan won a place on the Kent 1st XI towards the end of August, bowling 2-0-13-0 against Surrey in the T20 blast, and later made his championship debut, scoring 12 and 9 and bowling seven overs, 0-33 against Notts.
Matthew Foster made his first-class debut too, for Cardiff MCCU against Sussex. He scored 6, (bowled by Chris Jordan) and returned figures of 10-1-59-1 his wicket being the South African international David Wiese. While he was in Wales he played six games for Newport in the South Wales Premier League Division 1, taking 7 wickets at 26.28 with a best of 3-28. He later played for Knights and won Ireland A honours.
Former Waringstown youth star Jack Carson has been based in Sussex for a few seasons now, studying at Hurstpierpoint College and playing for Middleton-on-Sea in the county Premier League. This season, in eight matches, he scored 134 runs (best 47) and took 17-410 at 24.11 (best 5-22 v Horsham). In all games he took 38 wickets and scored 571 runs.
He played five three-day games for Sussex U17s, scoring 405 runs at 50.62 with 148 v Middlesex and 161 v Kent. He also took 17-379 (at 22.29) with a best of 5-100 v Middlesex. In three 2nd XI games he only batted once, making 7. He also only bowled once, with figures of 7-1-23-0.
Will Smale was another who shot to fame. The former Wales underage hockey and cricket player was brought on the Ireland U19 tour to England and instantly impressed with 34no and 28 against Worcester Academy. A wicketkeeper-batsman he was selected for the qualifier and made 66 against Jersey, 60 against Netherlands, and 32 v Scotland. He later made his debut for the North West Warriors, scoring 48 against Knights at Eglinton.
Andy Gorvin, an Irish-qualified all-rounder formerly with Hampshire Academy, played twice for Wales Minor Counties towards the end of the summer. After a pair v Oxfordshire, he scored 73 and took 8-111 in the two innings match against Dorset.
Former Ireland keeper Niall O’Brien is a busy beaver these days but still fitted in 21 games for Rothley Park in the Leicestershire Premier League. He topped their averages, scoring 1,040 runs at an average of 61.18, with three centuries and four fifties.
The centuries were: · 104* v Sileby Town (5x6, 9x4) · 153* off 100 balls v Lutterworth (8x6, 19x4) · 254 off 118 balls v Shree Sanatee (18 x6, 23x4)
The former Railway Union man hit 200 runs in boundaries as Rothley notched up 373-4 in their 40 overs in the Leicestershire & Rutland League County Cup quarterfinal.
Rory McCann, who won 16 Ireland caps as a wicketkeeper in 2010-12, has been based in Scotland for several years. He still plays occasionally for Carlton 1st XI in the East of Scotland Premier League – this year he made 26 against Grange and 28 against Aberdeenshire.
Former Ireland A opening batsman Ben Ackland is still turning out for Bath CC in the West of England Premier League. Early in the season he played against the Ireland Academy, making 48 and 9 before he lost his wicket to his former Merrion team-mate Tyrone Kane. Ackland made 90 against Cheltenham and 55 v Bristol before he finished the season with 334 at 30.36.