Test status a precarious prize for Ireland

John Mooney celebrates hitting the winning runs for Ireland in their 2015 World Cup win over West Indies
John Mooney celebrates hitting the winning runs for Ireland in their 2015 World Cup win over West Indies

Mission accomplished! Bravo for Cricket Ireland and especially its dogged chief executive Warren Deutrom.

Test status was Ireland's destiny - a long battle, fought on the field and in the boardrooms of world cricket that would be waged until victory was assured.

"Test cricket is the pinnacle of the sport and it's what we've all been aiming for," said a delighted Deutrom after Ireland and Afghanistan were awarded Full Membership by the ICC on Thursday.

"We are striving to make Ireland not only a major nation in cricket, but also to make cricket a major mainstream sport in the country.

"The sport has grown substantially since 2007, with participation levels quadrupling in that time. We see this not as the end of the road, but just the first step in taking our wonderful sport further and higher in the years ahead."

The allure of Test cricket saw Ed Joyce, Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan switch allegiance to England. Ireland's best young players can now experience five-day cricket on home soil.

It's a time of celebration but once the fizz has gone out of the champagne a huge challenge awaits.

A seal of approval from India captain Vorat Kohli
A seal of approval from India captain Vorat Kohli

Rivalling the big beasts of football, GAA and rugby in the Irish sporting landscape is a massive ask for a sport which rarely features on the back pages.

Cricket is indeed a growth sport but pushing on to the next level will require success in the Test arena to inspire the young to pick up a bat and ball.

Gaining that success will be the toughest task - just ask Bangladesh.

A cricket-mad nation with a population of 161 million, it was awarded Test status in 2000 and the Tigers suffered over a decade of humiliating defeats before being able to compete with the best.

Ireland has to make the best from 6.5 million citizens and after a long period of improvement an ageing team is beginning to struggle on the international stage.

The addition of Ireland and Afghanistan brings the number of Test teams up to 12 and a two-tier league format has been mooted to make games more competitive.

This would be a positive move for Ireland, allowing them to find their feet in Test cricket, going into matches with a realistic chance of winning.

An additional one-off Test against a side preparing for a series in England could add a much-need glamour game to the calendar.

Ed Joyce and captain William Porterfield will get a long-awaited opportunity to play Test cricket for Ireland
Ed Joyce and captain William Porterfield will get a long-awaited opportunity to play Test cricket for Ireland

The words cricket and Ireland do not sit easily together and the reason lies in the skies above.

In this part of the world five straight days without rain is considered to be something approaching drought conditions.

It ensures we live in a green, lush land but precipitation is the mortal enemy of cricket and it's likely to be the bane of many a Test in Ireland.

There's also the decline, with the exception of England, of Test cricket as a spectacle with only the shorter forms of the game filling stadiums.

So it will be a tough sell for Cricket Ireland and the hard work starts now.

We now have first-class cricket in the form of the Inter-Provincial Series and it must produce Test-calibre players for the masterplan to succeed.

It all adds up to this being a risky venture but surely a worthwhile one, for cricket in Ireland would suffer stagnation if this natural progression was blocked.

We are in it for the long haul, it will require patience and thoughts of instant success should be dispelled.

A week down in beautiful Malahide to watch the Boys in Green (or should I say white) knock it about under a warm summer sun - it doesn't get much better than that.

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