Ire­land play­ers forgo heroes’ re­turn to be­gin two weeks in quar­an­tine

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tim Wig­more

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.”

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