Ireland have turned down the chance to be part of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s domestic one-day competition next season, with Holland taking their place.
The ECB announced a restructuring of the county game earlier this year, with a single 40-over competition taking over from the Pro40 and the Friends Provident trophy.
Ireland and Scotland, who previously competed in the Friends Provident Trophy, were invited to be part of the new competition, but Cricket Ireland today revealed they had decided against accepting due to increased international commitments.
Cricket Ireland were careful to point out their gratitude to the ECB for their continued support, but chief executive Warren Deutrom insisted it was time for the side to take their international ambitions to the next level - even at the expense of continued competition against the first-class counties.
England have benefited in the recent past from the likes of Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan transferring their allegiances in order to advance their international careers – with Morgan playing a key role in yesterday’s stunning defeat of South Africa in the Champions Trophy.
Ireland may say this decision as the first step to ending that trend and becoming an established force on the world stage in their own right.
Deutrom said: “This was not an easy decision for us, and it was only reached after careful consultation with our key stakeholders, including the national coaches, the board, the cricket committee, ICC and our key commercial partners.
“Notwithstanding any possible changes to its format down the line, international cricket is our bread and butter and the means by which we are measured on the global stage.
“Therefore, we felt that we needed to focus our limited financial resources on preparing for our international programme.
“We are very lucky to have England as the Full Member in our region. They have been nothing but incredibly generous with the opportunities they have afforded Ireland at all levels.
“That generosity is now beginning to pay off, and we are starting to take the stabilisers off the bike and stand on our own two feet as a country that has an improving record of achievement against some of the best teams in the world.”
David Collier, chief executive of the ECB, said he understood the reasons for the decision and welcomed the Dutch side in their place.
“We are pleased that we have supported Ireland in becoming a high performance country within the ICC Associate Group. Given the heavy expansion of cricket at International level for this group we can understand why Ireland have focused their resources on international events.
“The ECB, as the full member within Europe, continues to support European Associates and Affiliates, and we continue to have an excellent relationship with Ireland.
“Ireland’s place in our domestic one day competition will be taken by the Netherlands who will join Scotland and the England and Wales Recreational Game team from the start of the 2010 season.”
Collier confirmed that the decision had no impact on England’s agreement in principle to play Ireland in an ODI every two years.
Ireland coach Phil Simmons, the former West Indies Test star, explained the change in playing conditions which had led to the move.
“Our international fixture calendar has become very comprehensive, and, assuming we get what we think we will get fixture-wise and we continue to qualify for events and their latter stages like the last couple of years, we may have between 40-50 international fixtures in 2010,” he said.
“Leading up to the 2011 World Cup in the sub-continent, I want to focus primarily on the 15 or 16 players who will represent us there, and I feel that the 12 additional games would be a step too far for the guys.
“The Friends Provident Trophy used to serve us well timing-wise in terms of preparing the players for the international summer. However, given our success and expansion, we are now playing more and more cricket out of season.
“It’s approaching a year-round game for Irish cricket, therefore the timing doesn’t work as well as in past years.”