THE next Ireland action may be three one-day internationals against South Africa in the World Cup Super League but it is still a T20 World Cup year and the serious countdown gets under way this weekend with the first inter-provincial festival.
All four teams are in Pembroke with holders Leinster Lightning facing Munster Reds in the opening game this morning with Northern Knights playing North West Warriors this afternoon.
Each team will play the other three over the next three days and will do the same again next weekend in Bready, after which the Ireland selectors will choose a squad for the first three T20Is against the Proteas, which will now take place in Malahide on July 19 and Stormont on July 22 and 24 - the first and last games changed only yesterday.
It is already 15 months since Ireland’s last T20I, a Super Over victory against Afghanistan in Greater Noida, but nine of the 11 players have a chance to prove they are still in best line-up, only Gareth Delany missing because of injury while Paul Stirling plays his final game for Middlesex tonight.
Kevin O’Brien will be the first under the spotlight after his disappointing run of form in recent ODIs but he has opened the batting in T20Is for the last 29 games and averages 31 at a strike rate of 156!
O’Brien will have Andrew Balbirnie, Lorcan Tucker, Simi Singh, Barry McCarthy and Josh Little as international team-mates this weekend and indeed head coach Nigel Jones is so confident in his team that he has named only a 12-man squad.
The Knights have only Harry Tector from the last Ireland line-up – until Stirling rejoins next week – but welcome back pace bowler David Delany after his long-term injury, while Shane Getkate and Craig Young will be in the Warriors side