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Ireland Under 19: International Tournaments
2006 Under 19 World Cup
Sri Lanka

Skippered by Eoin Morgan, the Ireland squad finished in 13th place, but it was very much a case of what could have been as they lost thrillers against both England and New Zealand along the way in the heat and humidity of Colombo.

The warm-ups saw Ireland lose to Uganda before a fine run chase saw them prevail by two wickets against Scotland.

In Group D they opened with a heavy 118-run loss against Zimbabwe who had Sean Williams, Graeme Cremer, Keegan Meth and Ryan Higgins in their ranks. Greg Thompson took three wickets as the Africans posted 215. The modest target was more than enough though as the Irish were skittled for just 97 - James Hall top scoring with just 17.

Three days later it was England and Niall McDarby's heroics saw them restricted to 214. Ireland looked on course for a famous win but got strangled in the middle overs and scoreboard pressure saw Ireland panic and eventually come up four runs short despite Gary Wilson's 69.

Nepal were next for the Irish and McDarby was again amongst the wickets taking three as Nepal made 234. Ireland's chase was led by Morgan with 86, but from 145-3 they collapsed losing seven wickets for 29 runs.

New Zealand then awaited the Irish in the Plate and Eoin Morgan again (124) and Andrew Poynter (76) saw them post what looked a match-winning total of 305/9, but Tim Southee bludgeoned the Kiwis to a three-wicket win.

The tournament ended on a high note for the Irish as James Hall and Gary Kidd took seven wickets between them in a six-wicket win over Uganda, while Eoin Morgan's 60 ensured the same margin of victory over Namibia to secure 13th place in the competition.

We spoke to players and support staff to get their memories of the tournament, and bring you up to date with the whereabouts of the players 14 years on.

Nine of the fourteen squad played senior international cricket for Ireland, with many of them still prominently involved in the game here.

Stumping for Fintan McAllister

BRIAN O'ROURKE was the Lead Coach, supported by Adi Birrell, Brian Walsh and Iain Knox. A hugely popular figure within Irish cricket, he is still heavily involved in coaching within the Leinster region, moulding the next generation of representative cricketers.

"I remember the 2006 Under 19 World Cup very well, and feel it was the next step in the journey Irish cricket was to take towards international recognition.

"The bi-annual nature meant that from the 2004 team in Bangladesh, we had lost key players in Porterfield, Kidd, Rankin and Kevin O'Brien.

"We had done a lot of research into the conditions, the opposition, and how with the 2006 team, led by Eoin Morgan, could achieve its potential.

"Four agonizing runs separated us from a win over an England side including Mark Stoneman and Moeen Ali, as the excellence of Niall McDarby (6-50), alongside the fielding, tied them to just 214.

"England fought back and really should have beaten us by a lot more than four runs, but my pride is always the sheer fighting spirit from the team to take the match to the last ball, ultimately coming up short as Stephen Mullaney yorked Greg Thompson.

"That spirit was on show again against New Zealand as we posted 304 led by Eoin Morgan's 124 (in a lot of people's view at the time - the best player at the tournament), and NZ only got home with 5 balls remaining thanks to the exceptional Tim Southee, who scored 92 in 55 balls.

"These days, people look, see a defeat for Ireland, and are disappointed. It must be remembered back in 2006, cricket really was a small sport in Ireland, little coverage, and it is the performances of the likes of u19 WC graduates Porterfield, Stirling, Rankin, Kevin O'Brien, Kidd, Wilson, Poynter, Thompson etc the nucleus of the 'golden generation' which has helped Ireland achieve Test status in 2018, and built up the expectation of on-field success in every match played.

"The World Cup is challenging (both on and off the pitch) but the experiences gained can last a lifetime. Qualification for these events is never straightforward with huge sacrifices being made by players, coaches and management in order to give our boys the best chance possible to be part of such a big sporting occasion."

NIALL MCDARBY produced a Man-of-the-Match display taking 6-50 as Ireland came up just short against England. He is now based in Sydney after a spell of globetrotting.

Niall McDarby

"The main thing I remember from Sri Lanka was the intense heat, and the amount of swing the new ball was producing. I was swinging the ball away from right handers, and I remember having to aim near the fine leg fielder to finish the ball on off stump. It was tough to control but I imagine it was tougher for the batters.

"Against England, the ball was swinging and we played on a hard pitch, so you were either picking up wickets or being hit for boundaries. I got three top order wickets that day, and managed to pick off the tail to end up with 6-50. Expensive but couldn't complain.

"We dismissed them for 214 and Moggy lead our chase as usual, with Gary Wilson batting well after he went. We should have easily won that game, but our tail faltered through panic, and we fell short by 4 runs.

"I don't think anyone could believe we blew that opportunity to get one over England. I ended up getting MOM for that game, I couldn't even crack a smile for the photo as we were all devastated.

"Apart from that match, highlights of the tournament included playing New Zealand at the Premadasa stadium. Another match we should have won, Tim Southee smashed 92 off 55 balls to put us away.

"Away from the cricket the hotel was lovely, and we managed to sneak off to the casino a few nights which was great fun!

"After the World Cup, my main interests shifted to travelling, which doesn't suit the cricketer's life in Ireland. I spent the next few summers in Canada, Europe and SE Asia so my cricket seasons were short.

"After a couple more years, I went travelling through Asia, then spent a year in NZ and finally found myself landing in Sydney. That was 2012 and I'm still here now. I run a decking business and my Saturdays are taken up with golf instead of cricket these days.

"I still love watching cricket (the Big Bash) is a great night out, but for now the whites are still packed away. I'm fitter and stronger than I used to be, so I do sometimes wonder about coming in off 24 steps again in the future..."

NEIL GILL was McDarby's new-ball partner in Sri Lanka, often bowling unbroken spells in the incredible humidity. The England match in particular was one that he still has regrets about.

"I always remember that game with huge regret we didn't beat them!

"I had Varun Chopra caught at mid on by Ricky Stirling and Moeen Ali came in and second ball to him he nicked it and Finto McAllister made an unbelievable diving catch to his right and took a one handed catch. We all ran to Finto to celebrate only to look round in disbelief that the umpire didn't give it!

"He was caught by me at fine leg of Niall McDarby in the next over so didn't cost us but would have been nice to say I got him out though. I bowled 10 overs straight that day then was substituted by Gavin McKenna and I was able to put the feet up drink a load of water and eat bananas. It was 45c and the humidity was 90%+ so it was testing but we coped well with it, we had trained really hard in the run up to the tournament in Jordanstown.

"The hardest game to take was the defeat to New Zealand, we had scored 305 with Eoin Morgan scoring a classy century. We had them in serious trouble with the required rate and were well on top then Tim Southee came in at the age of 16 and hit a blistering 92, hitting balls into the stands at the Premadasa Stadium!

"Overall an unbelievable experience and great trip away with a great bunch of lads!"

GREG THOMPSON played in three U19 World Cups and is the current captain of Waringstown. His memories though of the tournament are somewhat sketchy.

Greg Thompson

"Although I played in more matches than anyone, I have a genuinely dreadful memory!

"What I do remember from the England game is I was facing the last ball of the game, which was to be bowled by my Lancashire teammate Steven Mullaney, who I knew very well.

"We required 5 to win so I needed to hit a 6, and unfortunately despite me targeting the shorter leg-side boundary, going deep in my crease and swinging as hard as I could...I missed the ball and was clean bowled.

"Niall McDarby bowling an unbelievable spell, dismissing six English batsmen, including two current Ashes cricketers. Moeen Ali who was captain of the U19s in Sri Lanka, and an irate Mark Stoneman who lost his temper in the changing rooms and to my memory may have been reprimanded at the end of the game!"

GARY WILSON shared the wicket-keepiung duties with Fintan McAllister and batted in the middle order throughout the tournament. He had recently made his Irish senior debut and is now one of the most capped players in Irish history.

"I remember the England match very well- we should have won. I knew a couple of the English guys having played against them when I was playing for the MCC young cricketers. In fact Rory Hamilton-Brown I knew because I had been for a winter trial with Surrey and there was a bit of talk of me signing for them around that time, so it was nice to get some runs.

"It was a pretty talented England team actually and if you look down the line up now a good few of them kicked on to have good county careers and Moeen Ali and Mark Stoneman played in the Ashes.

"John Simpson who is a Middlesex stalwart these days I think was part of their squad but didn't play. I remember I was bowled by their medium pacer, Huw Waters, going for a lap sweep when we needed 30 off about 4 overs - we still should have won.

"The tournament as a whole is fantastic - I was lucky enough to play in two, both on the subcontinent. I remember Adi Birrell calling myself and William Porterfield up to talk to him after we'd been so far out of our depth against Pakistan in 2004. We put on a few but they had us in knots and I remember thinking Adi was going to hammer us for not scoring enough. All he said was, "that was tough going out there, you two can play for me any day" I was very surprised - I thought we were going to get nailed!

"It's such a great way to get our best young cricketers a taste of what international cricket will be like and a real eye opener as to what is needed."

ANDREW POYNTER was a county colleague of Eoin Morgan at Middlesex and went on to make his senior debut for Ireland two years later.

A century for Eoin MOrgan

"There were indeed two matches that got away from us. We had a chance to beat NZ in the plate in a high scoring game.

"Eoin Morgan got the century and I made 76 in a partnership of 160 as we got over 300. We dominated the game only for Tim Southee to launch a smash and grab down the order.

"Their team included Martin Guptill, Todd Astle, Hamish Bennett, Kieran Noema-Barnett, and interestingly their skipper was Marc Ellison who played as an overseas player with both Malahide and Civil Service North.

"In the England game We bowled first and kept it really tight with Neil Gill going for no runs and Niall McDarby picking up early wickets. They were 48-4 but they had a decent partnership between Ben Wright and Rory Hamilton-Brown to bring them into the game. But we were very happy with them being bowled out for 214.

"One memory I have is Gary Wilson taking a spectacular catch on the boundary throwing it back into play whilst in the air. We had a tough start losing a wicket before scoring a run! But Finto and Moggie having a partnership kept us in the hunt. But we kept losing wickets at regular intervals bar Gary scoring an excellent 69 but no one could stick with him for long enough and we fell frustratingly short!

"There were many players of note in the England side - Moeen Ali and Mark Stoneman. Rory Hamilton-Brown (Surrey & Sussex) , Stephen Mullaney (capt Notts), Graham White (Northampton), Varun Chopra (Essex).

"In the tournament other players were Tim Southee, Todd Astle (Both NZ), Moses Henriques (Aus), Isant Sharma (Ind), Sean Williams (Zim), Graeme Creamer (Zimbabwe Captain), Angelo Mathews (SL captain).

"I was lucky enough to travel to the same hotel in Colombo and many of the same grounds in February f2018 or the Women's World Cup Qualifiers which was a nice trip down memory lane. With not many of the grounds changing at all!

"The U19 World Cup is an amazing experience to do at such a young age, to play in a huge tournament against all the best countries in the world and test your skills against the best players at that age in the world."

Fintan McAllister cheers on his teammates

Players of note from 2006

Cheteshwar Pujara of India was the leading run scorer, He went on to play 54 Tests scoring 16 hundreds. Dean Elgar was just behind Eoin Morgan and Todd Astle in the leading run scorers. Elgar has played 41 Tests to date making ten hundreds. Tom Cooper featured for Australia, while Rohit Sharma and Mushfiqur Rahim also played.

In the bowling ranks Moises Henriques led the way with 16 victims, ahead of Pakistan's Anwar Ali, Niall McDarby and West Indian Kemar Roach.