Photo courtesy headlessness. CC licensed.
The country is somewhat “bowled over” by having beaten Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. Cricket is a seriously minor sport in Ireland: Cork, close to where I live, has just three cricket grounds for a population of ~250,000 people. The Irish Cricket Union has just 1,200 members for the whole island. (Ireland has about 6 million people, north and south).
Contrast this to Pakistan, which has 166 million people. Pakistan didn’t win a single medal in the last Olympic Games and its soccer team has never featured in any World Cup tournament. I’m guessing that cricket is really the only game of significance in the country. According to Wikipedia, they were World Cup winners in 1992 and have a very impressive record in the Australasia Cup.
To a Pakistani, Ireland beating their national team must be a bit like San Marino beating Brazil in soccer. Our national soccer coach was nearly flayed alive (metaphorically) by soccer pundits for nearly drawing against San Marino a few months ago, so I can only imagine what the depth of feeling was in Pakistan when the result came through. That said, our soccer team manager is still alive.. The death of Bob Woolmer in some way underlies the personal emotional turmoil involved when a good team struggles at the top grade.
For Ireland, to have such a success in such an unexpected sport can only be a good thing. It’s quite likely we have a wealth of cricketing talent in the country, as one of our more popular games – hurling – demands very similar skills to cricket. Also, we are beginning to see an easing of the unwritten laws that divided many sports into “Protestant” and “Catholic” games. Such a de-politicisation of sport is very welcome.