Interview with Irish batting sensation Paul Stirling

Sun, Feb 17, 2008 11:30 AM

It's been an exciting few days for Irish batting sensation Paul Stirling. The 17 year old was this week called up into the Senior squad for their forthcoming tour of the UAE and Bangladesh - he celebrated in style by scoring a boundary laden 72 from 50 deliveries against New Zealand.

He showed just what he's all about in that innings, with a series of powerful drives, and latching onto anything short, he cut and pulled the ball to all parts of the ground. Having been struck on the helmet by the first ball he received from New Zealand international Tim Southee, his response was to dispatch the next delivery, also a bouncer, onto the adjoining race track.

Stirling, who plays club cricket for Cliftonville in the NCU, has represented Ireland at all under age levels in European tournaments, but really came to the attention of the selectors last year in Scotland, when as a last minute replacement in the European Under 23 championships , he scored a magnificent century to help Ireland clinch the competition.

He is a quiet, modest and unassuming young man, who puts his international selection down to a lot of hard work. That coupled with his natural strokeplay and ability has proved a devastatingly effective combination.

"Our coach Brian O' Rourke has worked us really hard since we gained qualification last August. We've done a lot of running, and also in addition to regular cricket nets, we've used the facilities at the National Aquatic centre in Dublin. The players have all been given gym memberships and we've worked hard individually. I feel a lot fitter and lost nearly 10 kilos in that time."

"We've given ourselves a real chance of causing an upset this time around as we've played 4 warm up games, and spent a week in India at a traing camp prior to arriving in Malaysia. It's still incredibly tough with all the heat and humidity, but we're getting stronger with every day."

"It's a fantastic feeling to be called up into the senior ranks - to be sharing a dressing room with the heroes of the World Cup will be tremendous, and hopefully it will be a great experience for me. I'm a little surprised at how quickly everything has happened, but I've been given a chance and hopefully I can grasp it. My focus is primarily at the minute on the Under 19 World Cup, and our opener with England on Sunday."

Stirling also revealed that he will be playing at the Middlesex club next season, as will fellow Under 19 player Andrew Balbirnie.

"I'll be playing at Middlesex on a summer deal from Monday to Fridays, returning to play club cricket in Ireland at the weekends. My contract is for two years, and it allows me to be available for any Ireland commitments I may have. I went over on trial last year, and impressed Toby Radford who offered me the opportunity."

If Stirling continues his development at the rapid pace thus far, then a Middlesex middle order of Joyce, Morgan and Stirling mightn't be too far away.

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