When Ireland burst onto the ICC Cricket World Cup scene in 2007 by upsetting Pakistan and Bangladesh, tying with Zimbabwe and progressing to the Supers 8s, it was safe to say the boys in green had taken other teams by surprise.
It was a similar story in 2011, when Ireland knocked off England.
These days, the cricket world knows exactly what this Associate nation is capable of. Teams who do not take Ireland seriously in the ICC World Cup 2015 will do so at their own peril.
Although the surprise factor may have worn off, Ireland’s players are happy to have earned the respect of rival teams.
“I think we definitely get more respect,” said spinner George Dockrell, who at the age of 22 is playing in his second World Cup.
“I think they are more aware of the threat we have been and that’s why teams are treating us a little bit differently.
“For Ireland the possibilities are a bit endless at the moment.”
Veteran allrounder John Mooney, who played in the 2007 and 2011 tournaments, agreed other teams would not take Ireland for granted.
“The surprise factor is gone but our skill levels have gone up dramatically since 2007,” Mooney said an in interview with the ICC.
“We’ve got a fully professional squad. We’ve got professional players who aren’t even in the 15 which is massive.
“If sides take us lightly at the World Cup that will be to their own detriment really.”
Ireland’s preparations for the World Cup have been exhaustive. The team toured Australia and New Zealand in September and October last year, familiarising themselves with the local conditions.
They then played a series of warm-up matches in Dubai prior to Christmas, including two matches against a strong New Zealand A side featuring World Cup squad members Kyle Mills, Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi, Nathan McCullum, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne.
They won the first clash by four wickets, but fell to New Zealand A by 111 runs in the second.
“That Kiwi side was packed full of internationals including a full international bowling attack,” Mooney said.
“To finish with those two games was really good. We walked away from both of them really pleased with how we played.”
Ireland then returned to the United Arab Emirates in January for an ODI series against Afghanistan and Scotland.
They won that series, recording three-wicket wins over both teams, but lost to Afghanistan by 71 runs in their second encounter.
Dockrell was impressed by the team’s progress.
“The team has been working together for quite a while now. It was invaluable to have that time to work together as a squad,” Dockrell said.
“We’re trying to get to where we need to be, come the first game in the World Cup.”
Dockrell says Ireland is heading into the 2015 Cup with serious ambitions of progressing beyond the pool stage of the tournament.
“Obviously you have to take it step by step and take it game by game, so we’ll looking at the first game against West Indies,” Dockrell said.
“We’ll look for a win in that game, then our next goal will be to be get out of the group stage and go on from there.
“We’ve done some good things in the past few years but I think there is so much more room for improvement.”
Mooney agreed, saying the squad had “a bit of flair”.
“We’ve got a brilliant batting line-up, we’ve got some steady bowlers and we’re always going to be good in the field,” Mooney said.
“I don’t think any side will relish playing Ireland, especially Pakistan.”
Based on recent results, Ireland appear the non-Test nation with the best chance of progressing past the group stage, but veteran batsman Ed Joyce has tipped Afghanistan, Scotland and United Arab Emirates to also do well.
“We’re all good sides and we’ve all got the potential to beat anyone on our day, so I’d like to think we can all be gunning for a quarter final spot,” Joyce said in an interview with the ICC.
“It would be great to see a couple of us get through and show the world the teams outside the top 10 are improving.”
Ireland will begin their World Cup campaign against West Indies on February 16 in Nelson, after warm-up matches against Scotland and Bangladesh.
“It’s a huge honour and a great pleasure every time you pull on the green shirt. It’s a great feeling to play for Ireland,” said Dockrell.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
William Porterfield, captain, 30, left-hand batsman
William Porterfield has represented Ireland at every level from under-13 up and succeeded Trent Johnson as captain.
With six ODI hundreds to his name, Porterfield is also a talented fielder. It will be his third appearance at the tournament.
In 2007, he scored 85 in Ireland’s upset win over Bangladesh while in 2011, he captained his team to a three-wicket win over old rivals England.
Paul Stirling, 24, right-hand bat, right-arm off-spinner
An aggressive opening batsman, Paul Stirling had scored five one-day international centuries before his 23rd birthday.
With an average of 35.22 and a strike rate of 95.14, he will be an important part of Ireland’s campaign.
Two of his best knocks have been against Pakistan – 109 from 107 balls in May 2011 and 103 from 107 balls two years later.
Andrew Balbirnie, 24, right-hand batsman, right-arm off-spinner
A former Ireland under-19 captain, batsman Andrew Balbirnie scored an impressive 129 from 96 balls against New Zealand A in late 2014.
The batsman has figured heavily in Ireland’s World Cup 2015 preparations, scoring three fifties in Australia and New Zealand.
In addition to his batting, Balbirnie also bowls handy off-spin and can act as back-up wicketkeeper.
George Dockrell, 22, off-spinner
George Dockrell has already represented Ireland on more than 100 occasions.
He was a member of the 2011 Cricket World Cup squad and played six matches during the tournament, with his best performance (2-23) against Bangladesh.
Dockrell took 4-35 in Ireland’s ODI win over Afghanistan in January.
Craig Young, 24, right-arm medium
Craig Young burst on to the one-day international scene in September 2014 when he took 5-46 against Scotland, igniting hopes he could fill the hole left by Boyd Rankin.
The paceman was Ireland’s top wicket-taker during the 2014 warm-up tour of Australia and New Zealand, and again in January’s ODI tri-series against Afghanistan and Scotland, where he picked up seven wickets in three matches.
Kevin O’Brien, 30, right-hand bat, right-arm medium-fast
Kevin O’Brien’s classic century against England in the 2011 Cricket World Cup was the talk of the tournament.
His 113 from 63 balls was the fastest century in World Cup history and O’Brien remains an important part of the Ireland team, with both bat and ball.
He took 4-39 in Ireland’s win over New Zealand A in late 2014.
IRELAND WORLD CUP FIXTURE:
Monday, February 16: West Indies v Ireland, Saxton Oval, Nelson.
Wednesday, February 25: Ireland v United Arab Emirates, the Gabba, Brisbane.
Tuesday, March 3: South Africa v Ireland, Manuka Oval, Canberra.
Saturday, March 7: Zimbabwe v Ireland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
Tuesday, March 10: India v Ireland, Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Sunday, March 15: Pakistan v Ireland, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide.