Ireland’s Niall O’Brien announces international retirement
Niall O'Brien scored 3065 runs at an average of 25.54. (Getty Image)

Ireland wicketkeeper batsman Neill O’Brien has announced his retirement from international cricket, bringing an end to a 16-year-long career. O’Brien, 36, is the second cricketer from the country to walk away from the game this year following Ed Joyce’s retirement in May.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing my retirement from international and professional cricket,” he said. “I have been blessed to have been lucky enough to have represented my country for 16 years with plenty more ups than downs and for this I look back with nothing but smiles and laughter.

“I would like to thank all my coaches and teammates who along the way have helped me become the player I was. I have had too many coaches to mention them all but a special thanks must go to Adrian “Adi” Birrell who took a chance on me in 2002 and who arranged a trial at Kent from where I started my 14-year county career which was an absolute privilege and an honour.”

O’Brien retires having affected 133 international dismissals making him the country’s most successful wicketkeeper. In 103 ODIs for Ireland, the left-handed batsman scored 2581 international runs with a century and 18 fifties, which included a precious 72 against Pakistan in Ireland’s famous win during the 2007 World Cup that sent the 1992 World Champions crashing out of the tournament. He’s played 30 T20Is, scoring 466 runs with one half-century and was part of Ireland’s maiden Test earlier this year against Pakistan where he tallied 18 runs across both innings.

O’Brien’s has also represented county sides such as Kent, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire.

“I always tried to play with a smile on my face and with an enjoyment that I think all people could see whether watching from the stands, standing with me in the field or coming up against me for the opposition,” O’Brien said. “Hard work was always behind my performance and I will take this same ethos into the next phase of my career where I have been working in the Sports Agency business for the last 2 years alongside my playing commitments and will continue to pursue this avenue.

“I have always had a keen interest in working within the media and I am extremely keen to gain more opportunities moving forward and with Ireland having more exposure on the global stage I am hopeful to be working on plenty of Ireland games in the near future. I will also be looking to put my Level 3 coaching badge to good use and hope to work with some of the next generation moving forward.

“To all at Cricket Ireland a sincere thank you for allowing me to wear the shamrock for 16 years. There are too many fond memories to mention so I just wish the team and the organisation all the very best for the future and I will be watching keenly from afar. From playing relatively small fixtures at the start of my career to competing and winning world cup matches to being there to play in our first Test match meant I have achieved more than I could have ever dreamt and for this I look back with nothing but fondness.”

Ireland head coach and former South Africa First-Class cricketer Graham Ford, paying respect to O’Brien, recalled the time he first met the cricketer and praised him for representing everything a professional cricketer does.

“I first met Niall in 2005 when I coached Kent and he was a young member of the Kent squad. He immediately struck me as a fine example of what a professional cricketer should be. Since then I have followed his wonderful career with much interest, and over the years he has put in many special performances,” Ford said.

“He can be well proud of what he has achieved on the field but he can be equally proud of how he has operated as a professional cricketer and the manner in which he has played the game. He was an extremely tough competitor and played it very, very hard. At the same time he always showed respect for the game and the opposition. After a tough day he was always happy to have a chat and a laugh with his teammates and the opposition.

“It will be tough for Niall to walk away after so many years, but it is nice to know that he walks away having gained many special and lasting friendships from his time in the game.”