As a rule, Irishmen have had good county seasons, and have all been in form. Put them together in Irish kit, though, and they've been a bit out of sorts lately. A lot of this is to do with the regular selection shuffling to try to decide exactly who will make it onto the plane to Australia in February. Since May 2013, nine players have made their ODI debuts for Ireland. Meanwhile, John Mooney has been out of the side to recover from mental illness, and several other senior players have been in and out of the physio's room far more often than they would like.
Certainly, this Irish side is not at its peak presently, as proven by the brace of heavy losses against Queensland, but it would be a very brave man who writes off the Irish before the a global tournament.
What's their best XI?
Unlike the other Associate sides I've looked at so far, the Irish XI ought pretty much to pick itself. With John Mooney back fit and firing, there is now quite a lot of competition for the final place in the side. Would the number seven slot be better filled by another batsman, or an extra bowler? Is it enough to fill the fifth bowler place in the side with a combination of Stirling and O'Brien? If the answer to both these questions is yes, then either Andrew or Stuart Poynter should take that place in the side; if not, then it should be either Mooney or Stuart Thompson. With that in mind, I would look to select the following eleven:
William Porterfield, Paul Stirling, Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien, Gary Wilson, Kevin O'Brien, Andrew Poynter, Max Sorensen, Tim Murtagh, Craig Young, George Dockrell
Who's their star player?
With an astonishing seven first-class hundreds this summer for Sussex, Ed Joyce averaged over seventy with the bat against a red ball, not to mention averaging over 50 in the One Day Cup. His maiden ODI century was against Australia in Sydney for England, while his second was against Pakistan last year. Now 36 years of age, this is probably Joyce's final World Cup campaign, and he's hit form at exactly the right time.
Who do they have to pick?
He's had a horrible season, but Paul Stirling remains the brightest prospect in Irish cricket. On his day, he is capable of savaging any bowling attack in the world, which Pakistan have found out more than once. He also has other strings to his bow, being an extremely reliable fielder and Ireland's second spinner with his off-breaks. Rather puzzlingly, Middlesex seemed unwilling to bowl him this summer, but the Phil Simmons will have no such doubts.
Although he is now almost a guaranteed selection for the opening World Cup game at Nelson, Craig Young looked for a long time like being some way short of forcing his way into the squad. Prior to this season, he had played a first-class dead rubber against Scotland and a List A game against the Windward Islands, but with little reward. A winter spent in Australia has turned Young into a completely different bowler, though, and he may well return a year later as something approaching the spearhead of the Irish attack.
What are their prospects?
They might not be on top of their game, but Ireland would see anything less than the Quarter Finals as a distinct disappointment. Wins over the UAE and Zimbabwe are nothing short of expected, and their giant-killing pedigree would suggest that one of the big names has to be beaten as well. Perhaps Pakistan again, or the West Indies?