Cricket World Cup 2011

Ireland' cricketers heroes

2011-03-03 06:17
Ireland's heroes. (AFP)

Dublin - Ireland's cricketers were hailed as the country's latest sporting heroes on Wednesday after their astonishing three-wicket victory in the World Cup over England in Bangalore.

Prime-minister-in-waiting Enda Kenny said their historic victory "marks one of the finest days in Irish sport".

"Ireland's cricketers exemplified all the best qualities of our nation, playing with courage and pride and showing that seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome.

"Their supreme effort will lift the spirits of every single Irish person, no matter where they are in the world.

"Ireland's performance is truly inspiring, demonstrating that, with self-belief, the apparently impossible can be made possible and real change can occur," Kenny said.

Kevin O'Brien struck the fastest-ever World Cup hundred, with a brilliant burst of power-hitting getting him to three figures in just 50 balls at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The last time Ireland hailed its cricketers was in 2007, they also caused an upset by beating Pakistan in a World Cup match.

The growing number of cricket fans in the Irish Republic will revel in success of the team that will build the profile the game.

Though the Irish Cricket Union is an all-Ireland body, Northern Ireland has been the stronghold for the game on the island, and it is a minority sport in the Republic.

Traditionally a country of emigration until the economic boom of the 1990s began to attract immigrants, Ireland now has players from countries like New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, India and Pakistan.

Attitudes to the game also changed following the Northern Ireland peace process.

In the past, playing cricket had a political dimension. It was known as a "garrison" sport because it was associated with British army barracks around the country during colonisation.

It was brought to Ireland by the English, and initially thrived when it also spread through landed estates.

The progress of the game was then hampered by two developments - "land wars" of the late 1800s against mainly Protestant British landlords, and the 1884 founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to nurture the native games of hurling and Gaelic football.

In 1890s the GAA brought in a ban on "foreign games" like cricket, hockey, rugby and soccer. The ban was not rescinded until 1971.


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