Sunday’s crushing 74-run victory over Bangladesh at Kensington Oval secured a place on the International Cricket Council’s one-day international official rankings table.
They are effectively now the 12th best team in the world, five places below England, but will not receive an official rating until they have played at least eight matches against other major nations.
Ireland graduated to the top table by virtue of a second win over Test opposition — the criteria set by the ICC — having knocked out Pakistan in the group stage.
“I am very proud of what we’ve achieved, it is not only me, we’ve got a great squad of players, we’re very tight, there is a wonderful team spirit,” said Birrell, whose last game in charge is against Sri Lanka tomorrow.
“Five years ago we were ranked below Denmark and now we’re ranked ahead of the other associate countries. It is a very satisfying moment for me to know I have moved it forward that much.
“It has been a great experience for me, the people have accepted me as one of their own.
“There have been hard decisions and tough times along the way but the overriding feeling was that we made progress every year. We constantly moved it forward and certainly so over the last few weeks.”
Ireland’s historic success was all the more remarkable for coming just 48 hours after their obliteration by Australia on the same ground.
They owed themselves and the 500-strong Blarney Army a better showing in a game they pin-pointed as a potential two points at the start of the Super Eight stage.
“We said before the game we weren’t going to allow the pressure to get to us, we were just going to go out and enjoy the game,” said Birrell.
“There was a certain pressure on us because we do believe we are a good side and we weren’t satisfied with our performances against New Zealand and Australia.
“We set our standards and against Bangladesh we reached those standards, outplayed them and they are a good side who have beaten top sides themselves.
“They’ve beaten Australia before and South Africa just the other day.
“Tomorrow they might defeat another Test country but this was our day.”
There had been suggestions Ireland should not have graced the second round.
“We took those comments on board, turned them around and used them as motivation to prove those people wrong,” said Johnston.
“People say we don’t deserve to be here but you look through the pages of history and Sri Lanka were introduced to international cricket in the early
1980s, won a World Cup 10-12 years later and turned one-day cricket on its head with the way they played.
“Bangladesh have beaten Australia and South Africa while Kenya made the semi-finals of the last World Cup.”
Ireland’s part-timers will never forget the lap of honour in front of those among the 15,000 crowd who stayed for the final rites, as it may prove the career high for some.
For others, however, like man of the match Porterfield, they hope it is a springboard to something greater as he heads to Bristol for a trial with Gloucestershire.
“There has been an informal chat with Gloucester. I’ve not been in regular contact because I’ve been concentrating on cricket here at the World Cup, but I would like to get my foot into county cricket,” Porterfield said.
“I’ve been with MCC young cricketers for the last four summers, so hopefully, if all goes well, I can carry my form on from here,” he added.