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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 09:22 GMT 10:22 UK
Quiet Irish homecoming
By Lyle Jackson
BBC Sport

Ireland's return to action for the first time since their World Cup exploits was greeted by a smattering of polite applause rather than the rousing reception they might have anticipated.

Spectators at Stormont
Spectators soak up the sun at Stormont

There were only a couple of hundred paying customers in their seats at the Stormont ground near Belfast when Trent Johnston led the Irish side out to field against Kent.

That grew to about 400 during the afternoon, but Irish Cricket Union officials were disappointed at the turn-out for their first match in the Friends Provident Trophy.

The team's kit manufacturers had supplied 7,500 mini flags for supporters to wave and, as things turned out, that was hugely optimistic.

There had been thousands at the same venue last June when England played in a one-day international and the sell-out crowd created a carnival atmosphere.

I would have to say, considering the good day and the homecoming, it is a bit disappointing

ICU president Tom Prior

The sun was out again for Sunday's match against Kent, but the spectators were not.

It was more of a relaxing day out for those who did pay 10 to watch. Picnic baskets, wine coolers and the Sunday papers were the order or the day.

As it happens, Ireland could not recapture their World Cup form and lost by 58 runs to Kent.

"I would have to say, considering the good day and the homecoming, it is a bit disappointing," conceded ICU president Tom Prior.

"Maybe we would have had a few more if the match had been staged in Dublin, it is a tough call.

"But the future of Irish cricket is rosy. Coming back after being on a such a high in the West Indies, one of our major tasks is to strengthen the squad.

"We were unlucky that Boyd Rankin and Eoin Morgan were not able to play today.

"Success breeds success and we want to bring in one or two overseas players to strengthen the team and make us compatible with the county sides.

"We had a couple of players lined up but they got injured. We are still in negotiations with others.

"But I think success in a few of the Friends Provident matches will brings the crowds out.

It is full-time cricketers against amateurs but we have got to build on what we achieved in the West Indies

Kyle McCallan

Despite the disappointing attendance at Stormont, the Irish players believe they are attracting more attention.

"There has been a lot of interest shown in us since we got back and it is inevitable that the expectation levels have risen," said Kyle McCallan, the Irish vice-captain.

"People have watched us play and have seen the scalps we took in the World Cup and now we will be expected to beat county sides.

"But we only won one match in this competition last year and obviously we aim to exceed that. Our target is to win at least half of our games.

"It is full-time cricketers against amateurs but we have got to build on what we achieved in the West Indies.

"We do not fear county sides the way we may have done in the past."

SEE ALSO
McCallan bemoans defeat to Kent
29 Apr 07 |  Cricket
Denly stars as Kent beat Ireland
29 Apr 07 |  Counties
Fans greet Ireland cricket squad
24 Apr 07 |  Ireland


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