A cheerful, fun-loving gentleman, who loves playing cricket the most. If one is to come up with a testimonial for Niall O’Brien, it cannot be any different than this.
The eldest of the O’Brien brothers, Niall, has been one of the most prominent soldiers of Ireland cricket for the last 16 years and has been a part of the country’s almost every cricketing first.
He was there when Ireland toppled a star-studded Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup. He was also around when his brother, Kevin, toyed with England in a World Cup fixture in 2011. Niall, quite expectedly, was also in the playing eleven when Ireland made its Test debut against Pakistan earlier this year.
But on Friday, all those events became a thing of the past as Niall decided to draw the curtains on his international and first-class career.
The 36-year-old stumper-batsman, who made his international debut against Denmark in 2002, played 216 times for Ireland and has always been known as one of the most ‘forward-looking’ cricketers the country has produced.
At a time when Ireland was a mere associate nation, most of his team-mates would be apprehensive every time the team would play a superior-ranked side in the ICC events. But then there was Niall, who would come up with fearless statements like ‘why can’t we beat them?’
While those would mostly not come true, but the words eventually helped the Ireland team come together. And as he walks into the sunset, Niall wants to take back those happy memories.
“I have been blessed to have been lucky enough to have represented my country for 16 years with plenty more ups than downs and for this I look back with nothing but smiles and laughter,” Niall says.
He has opted for the number 72 shirt to mark his match-winning score in Ireland’s famous victory against Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup.
While he has been one of the longest-serving members of the Ireland team, Niall has also featured for Kent, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire in the English county seasons.
And by his own admission, those stints have helped him immensely. “I have played county cricket for 14 years and learnt my trade there,” Niall says. “We have played a lot of county cricket, so we know how to play the longer format of the game. We never panicked even when we had a bad innings. We showed our characters,” Niall says, explaining how the team managed to pull off things every time.
May be, a few years from now, the younger generation won’t know much about Niall or even Kevin.
But then, the history books would remind them about the heroics of the brothers, who had battled the odds to see Ireland grow!