Colour descended on Belfast City Hall as players and supporters on both sides gathered to officially launch next month’s One-Day International (ODI) between the West Indies and Ireland.
The lively event, which took place during Belfast’s Caribbean Week, featured some dancing from the Dominican Republic, plus an exhibition game featuring the interprovincial winning NCU under-11 side.
A host of dignitaries and sports stars took part in the colourful display including Ireland international Stuart Thompson and Holywood’s Vincentian overseas player Adonis Browne as well as Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister, Cricket Ireland President Brian Walsh, Dr Christopher Stange, Hon. Consul for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Northern Ireland, Joseph Ricketts from the African Caribbean Support Organisation NI, and various community groups with links to the West Indies.
The 50-overs game on September 13 in Stormont will be Ireland’s first ODI since becoming a Full Member, Test Nation of the International Cricket Council, so another memorable encounter is expected against a Windies team. Of course, West Indies are the current T20 World Champions and are known for their flair with the bat so are sure to bring some exhilarating cricket to Stormont.
The game is expected to be a carnival of colour with supporters from both sides combining to create a super-charged atmosphere in what will be a joyous occasion as Ireland celebrate their elevation into the cricketing elite.
Ireland captain William Porterfield spoke of the upcoming fixture against opponents whom Ireland have traditionally done well against.
“It’s fantastic that we have West Indies in Belfast next month for the first ODI since we obtained Full Member status,” said Porterfield. “It’s the start of a new era in Irish cricket and one which is hugely exciting for players and fans alike.
“We’ve beaten the West Indies in both T20 and ODI cricket in recent times, so hopefully we can be successful again in Belfast next month.”
Cricket Ireland President Brian Walsh was delighted that his home city would be playing host to the visit. “It’s great that Belfast is once again hosting top level international cricket. I’m certain that the next generation of young cricketers will be inspired by the presence of top international cricketers in Belfast.
“It was here at Stormont when we beat the West Indies in 2004, and there have been other famous wins, including the 2015 World Cup victory and, of course, none more famous than the 1969 win at Sion Mills when we bowled them out for 25. That win reverberated around the world.”
Joseph Ricketts, Manager of the African Caribbean Support Organisation NI, looked forward to having the West Indies visiting Belfast. “We are delighted to have the West Indies team playing Ireland. Cricket embodies Caribbean (West Indian) culture and national identity.
“This unique connection between the Caribbean and the island of Ireland through competitive cricket serves to unite our communities, to inspire the next generation of cricketers.”
His views were echoed by Dr Christopher Stange, Hon. Consul for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Northern Ireland who said: “Cricket is one of the most popular sports in the world and we are delighted this international event has been held locally at Stormont.
“We continue to believe that sports diplomacy is one of the best ways to bring nations and people together to promote a healthy and active lifestyle.”