Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie leads the tributes to ex-skipper William Porterfield

Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie lead the tributes to William Porterfield, after it was announced that the former skipper had decided to retire from international cricket.

By Kevin McLaughlin
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:11 pm

As a captain, Porterfield led the senior Irish side an incredible 253 times - taking over from former skipper Trent Johnston in 2008 at the age of 23 (the second-most appearances as Irish captain was Johnston with 60).

Adding to his longevity in leadership roles, Porterfield had also led national youth sides from Under-13s level upwards, and also took the reins of an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI side that played an England XI in 2012.

He led Ireland to two 50-over World Cups and five T20 World Cups, but perhaps his most significant moment as captain was leading Ireland Men’s team out at its historic first-ever Test match in May 2018.

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Balbirnie, who only recently got married, admits the former Donemana man’s decision to retire is a ‘huge loss’.

“It’s a huge loss when an absolute pillar of the game calls time on his career. William has been an amazing person to have in the dressing room, as a player and as a person,” he stated. “A lot of the foundations that were laid for this current Irish team were done by him and teams that came before us.

“He always epitomised what we wanted to do as a team - his work ethic, his attitude on the pitch and his passion for the game. He’ll be a huge loss around the senior group, but we wish him well in his next stage of life, and hope he has an amazing time. Undoubtedly he’ll be a success at whatever path he chooses to go down.”

Gary Wilson, a former Irish international team-mate stated: “I’ve known William since we were 12 years old and there is no one that you would rather have by your side on the pitch.

William Porterfield batting during the one day match between Ireland Wolves and Zimbabwe XI in 2021. Picture by Piaras Mídheach/Sportsfile

"To walk out with him was to know that he had your back no matter what, whether you were playing your first game or your last. His sole objective was always to do what he thought was the right thing to win the game regardless of anything else.

“What he has done for Ireland over the past 16 years since he made his debut you simply cannot put into words. To lead the team for over 11 years after taking on the captaincy aged 23 is a phenomenal effort, and to have achieved the level of personal success whilst doing so is all the more remarkable. No one has had a greater impact on Ireland’s rise to the top table of international cricket.

“Everyone will be pointing to what a great ambassador for the sport and the country William has been, and rightly so - I’ve just been lucky enough to have had the closest of front row seats.

"I’ve no doubt his parents, William and Alison and his partner Hayley and step-daughter Lily will be the proudest of people for what William has achieved and rightly so. Humble, loyal, tough, fair, selfless, I’m proud to have played alongside William but I’m even more proud to consider him my mate.”

Andrew White, Chair of National Men’s Selectors and also a Ireland team-mate of Porty said: “It’s very difficult to put into words the impact that William has had on Irish cricket.

"Runs, runs and more runs but for me it was the character behind the man that will make him extremely hard to replace. Always gutsy, disciplined, determined and skilful but the team came first and he wanted nothing more than for Ireland to win games of cricket.

“He was always destined to become Ireland captain but leading us from associate cricket to that incredible first day at Lord’s against England is something he should be immensely proud of.

“One of the best fielders in the world game at the peak of his powers and he drove the standards around him to the extent where we were one of the best fielding teams around. He handled pressure better than most.

“On a personal level it was fantastic to share some incredible moments on the field with him and the respect he is held in by team mates past and present is immense. We wish him every success as he moves forward into the next phase of life.”

Richard Holdsworth, High Performance Director at Cricket Ireland, said: “It’s a sad day when any long-standing member of the senior squad steps away, but even more so when it’s William Porterfield. Sometimes the use of the word ‘legend’ is used too casually, but it absolutely applies in William’s case.

"His leadership over many years has been outstanding, not only his on-field captaincy, but his mentoring and coaching of many players has been of great benefit to the Irish game.

“Off the field he has been an ambassador for the sport in Ireland and around the world, and he has taken an active interest in player welfare and the formation of the Irish Cricketers Association.

“One aspect that fans may never have fully appreciated, but which demonstrated his commitment to Ireland and to his teammates was the endless travelling and juggling William willingly undertook to make himself available for Ireland.

"Despite his professional county commitments, William was rarely missing when Ireland played. Even to this very season, his commitment to Irish cricket was also through the playing, coaching and mentoring roles with the North West Warriors, as well as combining his playing duties with Ireland with a coaching consultancy role in the national set-up.

“I know that all of Cricket Ireland’s staff, Board Members and, in fact, the whole Irish cricket community hold William in extremely high regard and wish him well with the next stage in life.”

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