Four weeks ago, Simmons’ charges made a sorry exit from Aberdeen with their reputation in tatters after a big defeat by Scotland had followed a record loss to New Zealand — two days of pain that has barely been eased by victories over Norway, Denmark, Holland and Italy in the past week.
Now comes the chance, if not for revenge, then to right the balance and retain a title won two years ago in Holland. Simmons said: “Scotland beat us at the start of the month but I didn’t think we played properly in that game. If we get our proper game together this time then I’m sure you will see a different outcome.”
Ireland are expected to field the side that beat Holland on Monday, which means that Paul Stirling will miss out after his excellent 56 not out against Italy, and the champions will have one eye on the skies. If the match is rained off, Scotland will take their first European title on run-rate.
Meanwhile, former Ireland captain Trent Johnston will return to national duty on Saturday. “I made myself available because I want to help Ireland reach next year’s ICC World Twenty20 in England,” said Johnston, ahead of the qualifier against the Scots in Belfast on August 2-5.
Johnston stepped back from international action after Ireland’s tour of Bangladesh in March. He has missed the ODI tri-series against New Zealand and Scotland, ICC Intercontinental Cup and Friends Provident Trophy matches and the ongoing ICC European Championships being played in Dublin. Johnston has also been recalled for Ireland’s ICC Intercontinental Cup against Canada to be played in Malahide, from August 6-9. He is not in the side for the August 12 ODI against the same opposition.
Top seeded Ireland are grouped with Scotland and Bermuda while the other group is formed of Kenya, the Netherlands and Canada as the top six Associate teams go ahead to head in the four-day tournament at Stormont where at stake will be two or possibly three places in the England event.
Both finalists will qualify for that tournament which will take place at Lord’s, The Oval and Trent Bridge next June while the third place, to be decided by a third and fourth-place play-off, is dependent on Zimbabwe Cricket’s Board ratifying a decision taken by its officials during ICC Annual Conference week, to step back from the tournament.
IRELAND: W Porterfield (captain), N O’Brien, E Morgan, K O’Brien, A Botha, A White, A Cusack, G Wilson, T Johnston, K McCallan, T Fourie, P Connell, P Eaglestone, G Kidd.
Tournament Schedule: Saturday: Ireland v Scotland, 1pm.
Sunday: Ireland v Bermuda, 4.30pm.
Monday: Semi-final one: Winner Group A v Runner-up Group B; Winner Group B v Runner-up Group A; Third and fourth-place play-off.
Tuesday: Fifth and sixth-place play-off. Final.