6 July 2007

Ireland have retained their European Under 23 Championship following a comprehensive 116 run win over hosts Scotland.

Late call up Paul Stirling proved an inspired choice, as he scored a magnificent 110 in the Irish total of 220 for 8. The prolific teenager came to the crease following the loss of skipper William Porterfield in the first over, trapped lbw to Sean Weeraratna for 0.

The Irish struggled early on in the seamer friendly conditions, and had the chances offered been taken, then the result could have been completely different. Calum MacLeod, Gordon Goudie and Weeraratna all beat the bat with regularity, but the Irish battled through to set their well above par score.

The decisive partnership came between Stirling and Kevin O' Brien who added 101 for the 3rd wicket taking the score from 35 for 2 to 136 for 3. The pair combined watchful defence with some powerful hitting, with Stirling in particular not afraid to take the aerial route. He struck 8 fours and 4 sixes in his 110, while O' Brien took 88 balls for his 38.

Andrew Poynter (15) and Fintan Mc Allister (12) took the total up to 220 for 8 as wickets fell in the search for quick runs. The seamers took the majority of the wickets, but the spinners also bowled well, getting turn and bounce from the wicket.

In reply the Scots got off to a dreadful start, as Kasim Farid went in the first over, bowled by Conor D' Arcy for 0. Gordon Goudie went for just 1, caught by Poynter off Gavin Mc Kenna. It was soon 20 for 3 as D'Arcy removed skipper Qasim Sheikh, and there was no way back then for Scotland.

Their best partnership was just 32, between Ian Young (23) and Omar Hussain (16), but both were dismissed in identical fashion, trapped lbw by Kevin O' Brien. The Irish all rounder was impressive with the ball, and finished with the excellent analysis of 4-18 in 8 overs. Off spinner James Hall took 2-26, Conor D'Arcy 2-22, while Gary Kidd 1-1, and Gavin Mc Kenna 1-14, were the other wicket takers as the Scots were bundled out for just 104 in 28.5 overs.

Irish coach Phil Simmons was delighted by the performance, "I thought we played some really good cricket. 220 was a superb score in such difficult conditions. Young Stirling batted with great maturity, and he's definitely got a great future in the game. The bowlers took early wickets, and that was a great spell from Kevin who took full advantage of the assistance that was on offer. It's important that we win these competitions, as it shows us that we are getting it right in our coaching and development structure at under-age levels."

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