Cricket Ireland chief: 'There's no reason why we shouldn't be a major sport in Ireland'

Ireland's inaugural Test managed to attract Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger to Malahide, and the hope now is domestic interest will ensure the game becomes a "major sport" within a decade.

The Irish made a memorable debut in the five-day format and were even thinking of a stunning victory when they had Pakistan 14 for three on Tuesday morning, only for the tourists to get over the line with five wickets in hand.

Staging that first Test was the culmination of years of hard work to get Ireland a seat at cricket's top table. The challenge now for Cricket Ireland chief executive Warren Deutrom and his team is how to build on it.

Jagger might have been intrigued enough to turn up on the third day but cricket in Ireland has a way to go to rival the established sports of rugby, football and GAA.

"We've always said Test cricket wasn't the end of the journey, it's the beginning," Deutrom explained.

"We've probably done this the wrong way around. Most teams, they get very good at what they do domestically then they make a big noise globally. We've made a big noise globally and are using that as a means of driving popularity and visibility of the sport back here in Ireland.

"We're not going to suddenly be the biggest sport overnight but if I look back where we were 10 years ago to where we are now, and trace the potential for us over the next five, 10 years, there's no reason why we shouldn't be a major sport in Ireland."

Deutrom had previously suggested the total cost of hosting the historic Test would be "around 1million euros" so the last thing Cricket Ireland needed was a washed out first day, when over 5,000 supporters received full refunds.

And the figures required to stage five-day internationals means the longest format will remain a rarity in Ireland.

Instead, Deutrom is hoping to develop the fanbase through the white-ball game, with India due to play two Twenty20s in June.

He added: "We need to keep playing (Test cricket) because why otherwise would we have sought the status? But we don't want to do too much of it. It's going to be financially unsustainable.

"We also know it's not the format of the game that is going to be driving the popularity of the sport here in Ireland. We're bedding down cricket as a sport, per say, let alone trying to explain the nuances between the five-day game, ODIs and T20s. The Irish public has only ever really existed on a diet of ODIs.

"We're really looking forward to the huge games against India coming up in June. I think we've nearly sold out the second game, which is 8,000 people, which is fantastic.

"The opportunities to grow the game will come primarily through the white-ball game but we still want to keep in contact with the Test format. It's our way of maintaining our connection with the tradition of the sport."

- PA


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