Ireland players forgo heroes’ return to begin two weeks in quarantine
From the delirium of a first victory away to England, most of Ireland’s cricketers now face the tedium of two weeks in self-isolation. All of Ireland’s players based in the Republic of Ireland had to begin a mandatory two-week quarantine period when they returned home yesterday, even though the players from Northern Ireland do not need to quarantine.
So, while one of Ireland’s centurions from their victory in the third one-day international, Paul Stirling, is free to resume seeing friends and family, the other, Andy Balbirnie, faces two weeks by himself in his Dublin flat. “It is bizarre,” says Balbirnie, Ireland’s captain who hit 113 at the Ageas Bowl in their successful chase of 329 on Tuesday.
“The guys from Northern Ireland can go straight up from Dublin and there’s no quarantine there. We’ve been in the safest environment I could imagine; there was hand sanitiser in every corner – we didn’t leave the hotel and were tested four times and all came back negative.”
Of the 22-man squad who Ireland brought to England, 13 are based in the Republic, two live in England, with seven in Northern Ireland. Cricket Ireland had lobbied for players to be exempt from self-isolation rules when they returned from England, but were unsuccessful.
“Obviously we have to respect the rules and regulations,” Balbirnie says. “Cricket Ireland went to the government, but I don’t think anything’s come of that.”
Unless rules are relaxed, players in the Republic of Ireland are due to be in quarantine until Aug 19, a day before the interprovincial competition – the top level of domestic cricket in the country – begins.
After his 214-run stand with Stirling, Balbirnie could not bring himself to watch the final stages of the game, with Ireland needing 50 from 33 balls after he was dismissed.
“Those final 30 or 40 runs I actually just wasn’t able to watch, I was in the toilet,” he says. “When I have to rely on someone else, I struggle to deal with it. So the lads dragged me out to make sure I was involved.”
With the fillip of a first-ever ODI win away to a top-eight side, and 10 precious ODI Super League points on the long road to qualification for the 2023 World Cup, Balbirnie’s endorsement of youth was vindicated, with Curtis Campher, Josh Little, Lorcan Tucker and Harry Tector all impressing.
“We needed to get guys exposed to this level – and we’ve done that,” Balbirnie says. “We’ve just got to make sure we nurture them well.”