16 February 2010

Ireland national coach Phil Simmons is clearly relishing a return to his Caribbean homeland where he will attempt to guide his Irish charges into the latter stages of a major tournament for the third successive time.

Although Simmons wasn't at the helm when Ireland reached the Super Eight phase in 2007, he was with the squad as part of the 'seamless transition' in taking over the coaching mantle from Adi Birrell.
Reflecting after another successful tournament, where the main goal of qualification was secured, a beaming Simmons was already looking forward to returning to his roots:" It's just brilliant to be leading a team at a World Cup in the West Indies. I know how proud and delighted I am, but that's nothing compared to the joy of the team. You only had to look at their reaction after we beat the Dutch to know how much it meant to the guys. I wasn't in charge in 2007, so it'll be good to be back on home soil and in charge of an international team on the world stage."
Simmons was clearly proud of his squad, who despite a number of high profile retirements and injuries, still managed to qualify: "We keep losing players, but we can replace them. You only have to look at how George Dockrell has taken to international cricket after we lost Kyle (McCallan) and Regan West. He's been just brilliant, and it's incredible to think that he's just 17 years old - he's a real natural. We keep producing young players and that's great for Irish cricket."
Simmons will take his team to Jamaica for a Cricket Festival Series in early April, where Ireland will play Jamaica in a four day encounter, before switching to one-day mode for a 50 over and T20 game. They then will take on the West Indies in a One Day International, before finishing off with a further three T20 internationals against the side who they will face in Guyana when the World Twenty20 starts on April 30.
This first Cricket Festival Series is a follow up to the Corporation Agreement signed in 2008 by Cricket Ireland and the JCA. This Agreement was designed to facilitate collaboration between the JCA and Cricket Ireland, allowing for the promotion of cultures, provision of training, technical expertise and also opportunities for income generation through tours.
"There will be a lot of innovation specifically designed to drive spectator support. There’s going to be whole lot of excitement, hype and it’s going to be a carnival," said Jamaica Cricket Association president Paul Campbell.
Cricket Ireland Chief Executive Warren Deutrom paid tribute to the partnership saying: "Cricket Ireland is excited to be embarking upon this series of matches in the Caribbean against Jamaica and the West Indies. Having qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 Cup in the Caribbean, playing against teams of this calibre is exactly what Ireland needs to do in order to both continue its upward curve on the field, and to gain experience of overseas conditions. We are indebted to the Jamaica Cricket Association, whose foresight brought about this opportunity."
Following the conclusion of the Series, Ireland will head to America to continue their preparations for the ICC World Twenty20. By finishing second in the qualifying tournament, Ireland will be based in Guyana in the same group as England and the West Indies.

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