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    WC triumphs put us on map, says O'Brien

    Ireland memorably reached the second round in the last World Cup in 2007 .

    Dhaka: World Cup success has put cricket on the sporting map in Ireland and now more and more youngsters are looking at the sport as a future profession, according to wicketkeeper Niall O'Brien.

    Ireland memorably reached the second round in the last World Cup in 2007 after beating Pakistan before repeating the feat in the Twenty20 World Cup in England two years later.

    "It's raised the profile of the sport in Ireland itself," O'Brien told Reuters in an interview in Dhaka on Monday.

    "We have gone from a small minority of people in Ireland who play cricket and follow cricket to it becoming a well recognised sport in our country.

    "In the group of 15 players here (at the World Cup), 13 are living day to day by playing cricket. So more young lads in Ireland now want to play professional cricket.

    "The opportunity is there to earn a living from cricket which is great.

    "As I said, this group of players are pretty much professional now. We know cricket, we love cricket, we play it day in and day and that's why we are here to play in the World Cup," he said.


    O'Brien was one of the key performers for Ireland in the Caribbean making 72 off 107 balls against Pakistan which helped them reach the second round at the expense of the former champions.

    He also played a vital role in the Twenty20 World Cup, making 40 off 25 balls against Bangladesh and helped Ireland win the game which was enough for them to progress to the second stage again.

    O'Brien, who plays county cricket for Northamptonshire, also concedes that neighbours and Group B rivals England have played a key role in developing the sport in their country.

    "It's very important that six or seven players now play county cricket full time," he said.

    "The access to the conditions and facilities in the UK, you know all the machines, all the technologies that we have in the UK, it's very important to grow as an individual and when you come back to play for Ireland you are better cricketers," said O'Brien.

    O'Brien, who also played county cricket for Kent before moving to Northamptonshire, has not given much thought to the International Cricket Council's (ICC) recent announcement that it plans to restrict the World Cup to 10 teams instead of the current 14 at the next edition in 2015.

    Despite knowing that Ireland could be one of the sufferers, O'Brien, who is now playing his second World Cup at the age of 29, does not give it too much importance for the time being.

    "The ICC, they make their own decisions," he said.

    "We are here to play cricket. We are just focused on Friday playing against Bangladesh. If we can play well over the next five or six weeks then hopefully things will take care of themselves.

    "We believe we are good enough to play in a World Cup. Obviously we want to play in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand, that's a long way away so you never know where we are going to be then as an individual or as a cricket team.

    "It's important first to get things right here in Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka, move on and make a statement," he said.