Red Bulletin

The Hitmaker

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With the future of Ireland’s cricket team hanging in the balance, Kevin O’Brien, the side’s most exciting player, is mapping out his own sporting journey

evin O’Brien finds it daunting to give true meaning to his record-breaking exploits against England in the Cricket World Cup. Ask him how he scored his explosive century – with no exaggeration, one of the greatest ever seen in international cricket – and his vision focuses on the middle distance, his mind’s eye replaying the images of an experience that he is still struggling to come to terms with.

“It was just phenomenal,” he says half-smiling and hardly comprehending his life-altering 113 runs off just 63 deliveries in Bangalore. “It was just unbelievable. From 111 for five and then all of a sudden you’re 273 for five in 100 balls or something…”

If the great Sachin Tendulkar had hit a similar hundred for India it would have been a sensation. That an emerging pro from a minor cricket nation did it stopped the sporting world in its tracks. The man swiftly dubbed ‘the gingerbread man’ produced a knock of bravura and brio rarely seen in these days of clinical sporting excellence and forensic preparation. And he plans to watch it soon.

“I have the highlights at home on DVD,” says O’Brien. I have to watch that! I’ve seen two-and-a-half minutes on YouTube – which is just bowl it, four and then the next ball – but I’d love to hear the commentary, to know exactly what they were saying.”

In a way O’Brien encapsulates everything about modern Irish cricket. Confident, cocky, even, but with his feet firmly on the ground and with a very clear idea of where the future lies, both his own and of the game as a whole. With player numbers rising rapidly, O’Brien’s exploits in India have added further fuel to the explosion of interest in a game once dismissed as ‘minority’ and ‘foreign’.

Viewed with suspicion because of its British colonial roots, and incorrectly assumed by many to be the preserve of the wealthy, Irish cricket has made its way into the limelight in the past five years thanks to sound management, careful nurturing of players and a sprinkling of magic. Its rise, starting with the national team’s first World Cup in 2007, mirrors that of O’Brien. The 27-year-old made his debut for Ireland nine months before that tournament in the West Indies which saw Ireland stun everyone by qualifying for the knock-out stages after a tie with Zimbabwe and victory over Pakistan. O’Brien was then marked out as a batsman of note and a bowler of promise. Four years on and it would take an innings of sheer brilliance to supplant those 2007 images in the minds of Irish sports fans, as Ireland produced one of the great run chases on the back of the fastest World Cup century, and against the old enemy England.

For the full story pick up the June Red Bulletin Magazine.

 


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