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Paul Stirling and Ed Joyce launch the RSA Challenge which will be played against England, Lord's, July 3, 2013

Stuck between a rock and a hard place could be an apt way to describe Ireland cricket at the moment. They are desperate to move up the ICC ladder, but joining the elite of world cricket can often feel a harder job that breaking into Fort Knox.

 

There remains intense frustration within Ireland at the pace that they are able to further their ambitions due to the limited exposure they receive against Full Member nations, who are content to play among themselves in some largely context-less ODI series that fill up the global calendar.

 

Some players, such as the vocal Trent Johnston, are not afraid to suggest it is because teams are scared” of losing to Ireland, while others take a more measured approach, remaining grateful for what Ireland have and being cautious not to alienate those who do provide the valuable experiences that the team requires.

 

Along with Johnston, Ed Joyce is an elder statesman of Irish cricket – so much so that he left once before returning after dropping off the England radar – and he admitted that living off “crumbs” from other international tours left Ireland “begging” for more opportunities. Joyce believes they have more than proved their worth at the top level.

 

“We are still in the situation where we are almost begging for fixtures, which is obviously not ideal because we feel as a competitive side we have gone past that,” Joyce told ESPNcricinfo at the launch of the RSA Challenge match against England, which will be held on September 3 at Malahide.

 

“It is frustrating that we aren’t getting more fixtures but I wouldn’t want to point fingers. We are simultaneously grateful for teams coming to play against us, but slightly frustrated that more teams don’t. We still live off the crumbs of the teams touring England and that’s the way it always has been.

 

“I realise why the big teams play each other a lot, there are huge financial incentives which they perhaps don’t see with us, so it’s about us getting in a position where we can be involved in the ‘club’, so to speak, and then hopefully other teams like Scotland, Netherlands, Afghanistan can do the same thing because there are a lot of good cricketer outside of the Test playing nations.”

 

What adds to the angst and annoyance is that Ireland are in fine fettle. They could have beaten Pakistan in the two-ODIseries that preceded the Champions Trophy, competed strongly against Australia A in Belfast, are well clear at the top of the Intercontinental Cup and also lead the World Cricket League one-day table.

 

The ODIs against Pakistan were particularly noteworthy, concluding in a tie and a last-ditch win for Pakistan after Ireland controlled both matches for significant periods. It is the type of form they will need to carry into the England game later in the summer to ensure that Ireland’s on-field performances continue to make strong statements.

 

Ireland had hoped to arrange a series against Bangladesh but that has fallen through, meaning the England game is now their one remaining match against a Full Member in their season.