Northern Knights coach Simon Johnston has dangled the carrot of Ireland selection in front of his players ahead of the interprovincial season getting under way tonight.
The Knights travel to Mardyke in Cork to take on Munster Reds in their opening T20 fixture with Johnston highlighting that international places are up for grabs given Ireland’s recent troubles.
James Shannon, Jacob Mulder, Greg Thompson, Gary Kidd and Graeme McCarter are already full internationals while Adam Dennison’s sparkling early-season form will surely be catching the eye of the national selectors.
With Ireland on a dire run of form, Johnston says there are opportunities for players who perform in the interprovincials.
“This squad is the hardest working group of cricketers I have come across and they deserve success, but success isn’t given to you because you work hard, you have to go out and express yourself on the cricket field,” said Johnston “If they do, we know where this Irish team is at the minute, I would be fair enough in saying there are a number of places potentially up for grabs, It’s a big opportunity for them and I hope they go out and play to their potential.”
This isn’t just about winning matches for Johnston in his first summer as coach, it’s about enabling Knights players to reach the full international squad.
“I am asked what is success, if I can get a number of these boys into the Irish set-up I will be very happy,” he said. “I think the ability is there, they just have to grab that opportunity.”
The first priority will be a victory tonight against new boys Munster, the first of 14 manic days of cricket in 16 days.
“Munster have done an awful lot of good work, the Emerging Knights went down there last year and we were beaten quite soundly. They have three or four very good players, some academy players who I have worked with and who have the potential to make it,” Jonston said. “They have just picked up two guys who hit the ball very hard in Nic Pretorius and Robert Forest. It’s a dangerous side, we were never going to take them lightly, and at our last team meeting we nodded at each other when we saw their squad and said that this was going to be a proper game of cricket.”
Johnston is also conscious about the Knights’ continuing need to build bridges with an NCU cricket community which has, to date, seemed strangely nonplussed about all things interpro.
“I have been trying to encourage clubs to come along and support the Knights. I would pay to watch Ed Joyce bat even though I hope not to see too much of it this summer,” he added.
“Leinster have 11 or 12 internationals, that team would hold its own in the County Championship, the North West are exciting to watch and we have a core group of five or six boys, who if they realise how good they are, could be frightening.”