'You do not need to leave the North West to become an Ireland cricketer' - Conor Olphert
Bready paceman Conor Olphert insists no one needs to leave North West cricket in order progress their international ambitions with Ireland.
The 26-year-old, who only received his first international cap during the summer when Ireland played India in a T20 series in June, is part of Heinrich Malan’s squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup which gets underway in Australia next month.
Olphert joins fellow Bready native, Craig Young, in the squad and described his call-up as proof that players don’t need to leave the region in pursuit of international recognition with the ‘Boys in Green’.
“Obviously I’m delighted to be selected for the World Cup but the one thing I want to stress from my point of view is that you do not need to leave the North West to become an Ireland cricketer,” insisted Olphert. “I’m very committed to the North West.
“I come from Bready. I’ve played against some great players from the North West, like Decker (Curry), the Gillespie’s, etc, and I want to show that you don’t need to leave, you can be committed to the North West and still get where you want to go.
“There’s a pathway there for a reason and you’re playing against some of the best players in Ireland in various situations, such as the All Ireland Cup at club level.
“There’s a lot of talent in the North West. It just hasn’t been opened up yet but I want to prove to the guys who are up and coming that this league means it’s still possible to progress.”
The right arm bowler - whose father, Mark, made one Ireland appearance in 1998 against Australia ‘A’ when he earned his cap in the same match as a certain Steve Waugh, the former Aussie skipper was guesting as a professional for Ireland that year - is over the moon to be chosen for the World Cup.
Olphert also revealed that former Ireland captain, William Porterfield, played a major role in his progression this year and said he was disappointed to see the former Gloucestershire and Warwickshire man call it a day earlier this year.
“It’s a massive honour and not something you ever think you will achieve, so when you do it’s just unbelievable,” he stated.
“It has been an up and down season. I’ve had some injury problems towards the end of the season but at the start of the season I was very good with the Warriors and Bready and I enjoyed it. I learned a lot from the experienced players, especially (William) Porterfield who helped me a lot at the start of the season.
“It’s a bit sad now that he’s gone, but I learned so much from him and that has helped me quite a bit.”
Olphert would be the first to admit has been somewhat of an inconsistent campaign with injuries hindering him at stages, but after getting a taste of international T20 cricket in the summer, he says he was anxious to secure his ticket to go Down Under.
“Cricket Ireland have been very good to me because after making my debut I’ve struggled with injuries but they have done everything they could to get me back on the park. I was able to play in some squad games for the last two weeks and it was great to be back out there.
“I didn’t expect to be going to Australia but they obviously see something in me and I’m looking forward to it.
“It was a bit strange because I would have been annoyed if I wasn’t selected, yet when I was picked I was in shock because I was preparing myself for the worst. Either way, whichever decision it was, there was going to be a bit of emotion.”
Ireland will face Zimbabwe, Scotland and West Indies in the World Cup but prior to the action getting underway, Olphert and Co. have two warm-up matches against Namibia and Sri Lanka with the Liverpool F.C. supporter stressing he wants to hit the ground running. Indeed he feels the Irish squad has enough balance to exceed expectations, especially as the likes of Paul Stirling, Josh Little and Harry Tector have tasted franchise cricket.
“I’m really looking forward to the warm-up games. I really want to go to Australia and enjoy the whole experience,” he confirmed.
“I play my best when I’m enjoying it and obviously I can’t wait to get out there because it will be nice to bowl on Australian wickets. We don’t get that hard, flat, fast pitches in Ireland or, if we do, that one game a year is brilliant. We’ll have plenty of those wickets out there and it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“I don’t think T20 cricket is about bowling flat out pace anymore, it’s about change ups and slower balls, and we need to use them to our advantage and try to be smart.
“It’s going to be a very big event. The amount of T20 cricket all over the world, the franchise cricket is insane and some of our squad have tasted franchise cricket; Stirlo (Paul Stirling) has done a lot, Josh has played in ‘The Hundred’ and then Harry in the Caribbean, so there’s opportunities in T20 cricket which you don’t get in other formats.
“I am still a purist. I love Test cricket but you can’t deny there are opportunities to go and prove yourself against the best.”
In the coming weeks Olphert and Young will talk in more detail about the T20 World Cup campaign which gets underway against Zimbabwe in Hobart on Monday, October 17th.