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Jokes on the Irish will now stop

Ted Corbett

We have spent almost 1,000 years laughing at — and fighting against — the Irish, telling jokes about their supposed stupidity and treating them as lovable rogues, even when they were blowing up members of the Royal family and killing our soldiers.

Now all that will stop. They have not just beaten us at cricket, our national game, in a World Cup we rather fancied winning but they have done it on neutral territory after we made what we thought must be a huge winning score.

Before political correctness made all Irish tales forbidden we labelled them as simple road builders and canal diggers who, when asked for directions, answered “Well, sir, I wouldn't start from here if I was going there,” and could be heard to say “Jeez, I'd hate to be with you when you're on your own.”

So, we were not surprised to hear that their big-hitter Kevin O'Brien had dyed his hair pink — for a cancer charity actually — although when he hit 100 off 50 balls, the quickest century in World Cup history, we remembered that this Irish outfit had defeated Pakistan in the last tournament in the West Indies.

Biggest six

O'Brien was born in London but chose to play for the Irish as his father had done more than 60 times. One of his sixes on the small ground was the biggest of the 2011 World Cup and even when he had a quiet spell just after reaching his hundred he still trotted along at a run-a-ball.

It was then we recalled how in the days before they took up cricket professionally they trapped a superb West Indies side with a drop too much of Guinness, their favourite drink on the eve of the match, and rain, the stuff that gives their evergreen land the nickname of the Emerald Isle and beat them.

That was in 1969 just as ‘The Troubles' were restarting, but now Irish cricket has grown up. Their verdict on the victory in Bangalore was that that it proved they had the right to be on the World Cup stage and once an Irishman gets a firm hold on a belief he will fight for it to the death.

It did not matter to them that O'Brien got out just before the end.

They held on to win by three wickets with five balls to spare and sent England trudging back to their dressing room to wonder how they had made 327 and still lost.

Batsman's game

The truth is that, as limited-over cricket becomes more and more a batsman's game, target scores are getting bigger and still being chased down by fearless batsmen like O'Brien.

The blow to England's hopes, ahead of a tough match against South Africa in Chennai on Sunday, was, according to their captain Andrew Strauss, already bringing bitter thoughts. “We have to go away and lick our wounds,” he said, “and then we have to bounce back.”

Meanwhile in Dublin, the capital of the southern half where the accent is sweet but the people are still capable of throwing out their long-established government as they did last weekend following the collapse of their economy and in gruffer Belfast they contented themselves with a few drops of what they call “the holy water” and retelling their own version of the English joke.

“What is black and blue and floats upside down in the Irish Sea?” The answer is “an Englishman who tells Irish jokes.”

After this World Cup triumph less will be heard of those jokers and rather more Irishmen will see cricket as their national game.

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