Although Ireland lost the T20 World Cup qualifying final, Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie insists there were plenty of positives as the squad looks ahead to their seventh successive T20 global event in October.

The winner-take-all semi-final clash with hosts Oman was always going to be the only game that mattered over the hurly –burly of the seven-day tournament, when each of the eight teams played five games and Ireland’s comfortable 56 runs victory guaranteed their passage to Australia.

Speaking after the defeat by UAE – the Associate side, ranked three places above them after a fifth successive win against Ireland – Balbirnie said: “There was a lot of pressure coming into the tournament as the only Full Member, having not played great T20 cricket, so there are more positives than negatives.

“The middle order in the last two games have come out under pressure and continued to score, playing positive cricket from the off. Harry (Tector’s 50) was very impressive today and then Barry McCarthy and Mark Adair came out and hit it cleanly.
“As long as these guys are improving, and with a (Ireland) Wolves tour coming up, it will be interesting to see who comes out of that. We have an exciting year ahead.”

Balbirnie either would not or could not confirm Ireland’s T20 schedule for the next eight months – the fixture schedule is being announced on Tuesday – but the more games they play the more consistent they will become. It wasn’t coincidence that Ireland improved the longer the qualifiers progressed, beaten only by a superb century by Muhammad Waseem in the final.

But the fact they totalled 159 from the perils of 18 for three was the biggest positive. For far too long they have relied on at least one of their top three batting through the innings to post a competitive total but on the palindromic date (22-2-22) the Ireland batting could have been turned upside down and it would have looked the same.

Meanwhile, the Irish Cup returns this season, after an absence of two years, with the first round draw released yesterday.
The semi-finalists from the last competition in 2019 have received byes, leaving North Down v Brigade as the pick of the ties.

Irish Senior Cup first round:
Clontarf v CSNI, YMCA v Bready, Leinster v Eglinton, Merrion v Coleraine, Lisburn v Malahide, Woodvale v Balbriggan, North Down v Brigade, Fox Lodge v The Hills, Newbuildings v Carrickfergus, Ardmore v Instonians, Cork County v North Kildare, Donemana v Cork Harlequins. Byes: Pembroke, Waringstown, Phoenix, CIYMS. Games on Saturday May 21.

National Cup 1st round:
Rush v Saintfield, Laois v St Johnston, Cliftonville Academy v Terenure, Cregagh v Killyclooney, Derriaghy v Ballyhuis, Strabane v Civil Service, Burndennett v North County, Ballyspallen v Templepatrick, Glendermott v Athlone, Co Kerry v Muckamore, UCC v The Nedd.