What it means to me to finally become a Test cricketer with Ireland

Growing up in Sandymount in Dublin, I always held a dream of becoming a Test cricketer.

Surprisingly enough, playing cricket in my village was actually the norm as there are four clubs within very close proximity of each other.

For most boys my age cricket was a game for foreigners. For the English. For the rich. But I didn’t come from any of those circles, I just loved the game and wanted to be a part of it.

My club, Railway Union CC, was a great place to be as a nipper as all the kids from our village would be there all day every day playing every sport under the sun.

My father was a league legend, captained Ireland on many occasions and nurtured my game from a very early age. 

Myself and my brother Kevin would travel to every game with Dad when he played for the first team and would spend hours in the nets until it was time for tea. We would be first in and last to leave as we fuelled ourselves up for another five hours of marathon stump test in the nets.

As Irish cricket progressed through the noughties under the expertise of South African Adrian Birrill, cricket seemed to be making some positive strides into a semi-professional world.

I was signed by Kent at this stage and was loving my dream job as a pro cricketer, playing with world stars such as Shahid Afridi and Andrew Symonds and regularly testing myself against the game’s greats like Shane Warne.

When we qualified for the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, no one expected a thing of the Boys in Green, except from the players themselves. 

We wanted wins. We wanted scalps. We wanted to be known and that is exactly what drove the team on throughout the entire campaign and gave us wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh plus a tie with Zimbabwe, resulting in us finishing seventh in the tournament. No small feat for a mostly amateur side.

We were led brilliantly by Trent Johnston and had some wonderful players such as Jeremy Bray, Andre Botha and Kyle McKallan, as well as talented youngsters like my brother Kevin, Willaim Porterfield and Eoin Morgan. 

We played hard on the pitch and had a ball off it. We were regularly seen out partying with supporters and people would ask ‘aren't you the Irish cricket team?’ and we would say ‘yep, we’re having a ball, come join us for a drink’. When we worked, we worked bloody hard, and when we relaxed, we were very chilled out.

Last Thursday I was playing a game for my first class team the North West Warriors against Leinster Lightening in the glorious surrounds of Oak Hill when the news broke… Ireland is now a Test nation.

An unreal wave of emotion came over me as I thought back to my first cap in Stormont against Denmark.

Now we are being regarded as a full member alongside the big boys and it feels good. Do we deserve it? Too right we do. Will we do it justice? 100 per cent. Do the next generation and the generations after that have hope? You bet they do. 

But for now it's time to sit back and raise a glass to all the soldiers who have worn the Ireland cap and got us here. To all the administrators who go unnoticed. To all the volunteers that run club cricket. 

Without them there would be no Test cricket for Ireland. I salute and thank you all for helping me and my team-mates realise our dreams.