Barry McCarthy has been the poster boy for Cricket Ireland this week. The 30-year-old Dubliner’s face adorned the billboards in Brisbane, alongside Australia captain Aaron Finch, promoting Monday’s game between the teams.
Fittingly, when the action got under way, McCarthy dismissed Finch to continue his improved form with the ball this year. It was his third wicket of the match and the fifth time he has taken three wickets in a T20 innings to go with the same number in one-day internationals.
McCarthy has always been a wicket-taker – he announced his arrival on the Ireland scene in 2016 with 18 wickets in his first seven ODIs and took four on his T20 debut against Afghanistan the following year.
But his high economy rate stalled his progress, repeatedly being left of the playing XI despite always being in the squad. Between January 2020 and July 2021, he played in just 18 of Ireland’s 47 matches.
But he has missed only one of the last 16 and, admittedly helped by the absence of the injured Craig Young is enjoying his best run in the team. It has helped his confidence but he insists there is more to come.
I’m a little bit older, have a lot of games under my belt, and probably played under pressure in the past, putting pressure on myself, but now I just go out there and play the game for what it is, it is only a game after all.
“ I feel in a good place in my cricketing life, have sorted out stuff outside the game and am now playing with a bit more freedom, having that clear role makes it easier and getting a good run of games this year has helped.
“I have been in every situation imaginable in T20 cricket this year, some bad overs (most recently 0-59 against Scotland at the  World Cup), some very good overs (3-29 against Australia)  but I’ve tried to stay level all the way through and I feel  a big part of this team and can take confidence from that.
“I know my role but whether it’s the best stage of my career? I think I’ve a little bit more to give but I’m enjoying myself and everyone in the bowling group is continuing to improve, continuing to learn, we are in a pretty good place, got clear plans and will do the same again on Friday.”
The Ireland party flew to Adelaide yesterday for their final game, against New Zealand, and know they must win to have a chance of qualifying automatically for the next T20 World Cup in 2024.
“We’re not going to change the way we play on Friday just because of where we can finish on the table,” said McCarthy, "we’ll still put our best foot forward and take that confidence and belief from the last couple of weeks and, indeed, the last 12 months.
"New Zealand are an incredibly strong outfit as we have seen over the last couple of weeks but I’d like to think they think the same of us and I’m sure they won’t take us lightly."
Although McCarthy dismissed Australia’s top three batters, the feat which got the most attention against the defending champions was his spectacular boundary ‘save’ which denied Marcus Stoinis a six – already hailed as the best fielding of the tournament.
“When it come off the bat I thought it was well into the stands and when it arrived I thought I was well inside the field but it kept going,” explained McCarthy. “You are never really in control of where you are, you’re just thinking of catching the ball and then instinct and reactions just take over to throw it back into the field of play.”