Ireland A are in action against MCC at Malahide on Friday but it is the absence of one name from the squad, rather than the names included, that catches the eye.
James Shannon remains one of the classiest batsmen around and one of the most naturally talented players to come out of the NCU in recent years, but despite featuring with the full Ireland squad over the winter, he was not named in the panel for Friday’s 50-over game.
Shannon understandably didn’t want to be drawn on his disappointment, but his appetite for higher honours remains the same as his appetite for runs with Instonians and the Northern Knights.
“My ambition is to play and I want to play (for Ireland),” he said. “It’s about putting in performances for my club and for the Knights and see where it goes from there really.”
After a relatively lean season in 2013 Shannon is certainly fulfilling his part of the bargain this summer. The Knights may have lost last month’s three-day game to Leinster Lightning at College but it was Shannon who gave them hope, batting deep into the final day and at one stage he and David Simpson threatened to salvage an unlikely draw.
“Looking at last year in the three-day games the one at Waringstown was the only time we played proper cricket,” Shannon said. “It’s about adapting from 50-over cricket, it’s a step up and we struggled to apply ourselves. It was the same in the last three-day game.
“But there were still a lot of positives. Nick Larkin batted really well and then on Sunday in the Twenty20 we played pretty well after a tough start against the Warriors. Personally I was disappointed because I didn’t see it through after a good start. I feel in good form.”
Shannon has been a misunderstood cricketer, principally by people who have only seen the on-field persona. But when you talk to him you can’t fail to be impressed by his passion for Instonians, the club who have nurtured his talent.
He, more than most, has felt the pain of a difficult season so far.
“In the last five or six years we have been pretty competitive in the Premier League and in all the cup competitions,” he said. “But we’ve had a change of personnel in the last couple of years. Every team goes through change and we have had to adapt to Eugene and John Stevenson not being in the team and a few youngsters have come through in their place. Rory McCann was two cricketers in one and we lost him too.
“In terms of how we are going everyone has played really well at times but it’s about stringing a few performances together at the same time.”
Instonians’ interest in the cup competitions might be over, but they remain very much in the title race.
Shannon added: “Apart from Muckamore, all the games are pretty competitive, even going to Ballymena you will lose if you don’t have your head screwed on. Waringstown are firm favourites but in the Premier League anyone can beat anyone. If we make sure we don’t slip up against the likes of Ballymena or Lisburn, and we can beat Waringstown, then we will be right in there.”