End of an era: Ireland’s Kevin O’Brien retires from international cricket

Railway Union man known for big match centuries against England and Pakistan ends bid for World Cup selection

Kevin O’Brien has announced his retirement from international cricket after a 16-year career in green. The 38-year-old all-rounder, who had previously retired from One-Day Internationals in 2021, was trying to force his way back into the Ireland squad in advance of October’s T20 World Cup but has decided to call it a day, citing his belief that “the selectors and management are looking elsewhere.” O’Brien played his last game for Ireland at the 2021 World Cup.

O’Brien departs with 153 ODIs, 110 T20Is, three test matches and 389 total caps to his name, making him Ireland’s most capped international sportsperson. He is one of a handful of players in the world to have recorded a century in all three formats and will go down as one of the greats of the Irish game.

His final record stands at 9,048 runs in a green shirt with an average of 27.84. He also took 276 wickets at 28.23, his best figures a spell of 5-39 against Canada in 2010.

The Railway Union man was there for most of Ireland’s biggest moments. He was not out at the end alongside Trent Johnston when he hit the winning runs against Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup, the win that secured Irish cricket global attention for the first time.

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O’Brien scored the fastest World Cup century against England in 2011, ending with 113 in a famous win in Bengaluru. He also became Ireland’s first Test centurion, notching 118 against Pakistan in Malahide in the country’s maiden Test.

Alongside his brother Niall and countless others, O’Brien was part of the golden generation of Irish cricket whose results on the pitch kick-started the campaign for full membership of the International Cricket Council, something which brought Test cricket to these shores.

O’Brien played domestic cricket for the Munster Reds this season in a bid to resurrect his international career. He had previously played for the Leinster Lightning as well as a number of professional clubs abroad, including Surrey, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Somerset, the Rangpur Riders and Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel.

He had recently turned more of his attention to coaching, linking up with the Italy back room ticket earlier this summer.

“I have enjoyed every minute of playing for Ireland, made many friends on the pitch and I have so many happy memories to remember from my time playing with the national side,” said O’Brien in a social media statement.

“It’s now on to the next stage of my life and my career for me, the time is right. I want to continue to grow my own coaching academy here in Ireland and I have some exciting opportunities coming up in the near future. I also want to continue to gain coaching experience overseas and hopefully will have more opportunities with some international and professional sides in the near future.”

Current men’s captain Andrew Balbirnie paid tribute to his former team-mate: “I was very lucky to play with not only one of Ireland’s greatest sportspeople, but also a very good friend who was always there to support me from my first cap to when I became captain.

“Cricket in this country owes a lot to what Kev achieved on and off the field and has left the game in a better place. Everyone in the team wishes nothing but the best going forward for Kev in his coaching career.”

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist