Belfast: Ireland`s cricketers are delighted with the International Cricket Council`s (ICC) decision to reinstate associates in the 2015 World Cup and said the U-turn by the world body is a victory for all the 96 associate nations.
The ICC on Tuesday relented from its earlier stance of having a 10-team World Cup and finalised on a 14-team format for the 2015 event in Australia and New Zealand. The tournament will now have 10 full-member countries and four associates, who will come through a qualifying stage.
Ireland, who earlier felt undone by ICC`s decision despite their impressive show in the last two World Cups, welcomed the decision but insisted the real work starts from now.
Coach Phil Simmons said the team will now look to beat the Test-playing nations regularly.
"All 96 of us should be happy, but the real work starts now. We have got to show the ICC and the Full Members that we can perform in the final stages. That means reaching semi-finals and finals, not just the occasional shock," said Simmons.
"We have got to take our cricket to the next level and show we belong as a right at these global events. We have certainly progressed in recent years, but we have got the potential to grow much further. That`s what we will be looking for from this team in the next four years."
Captain William Porterfield said Ireland getting a shot at qualifying for the next World Cup will further boost the sport in the country.
"It`s a real boost for Irish cricket, as we have continued to improve since our first appearance in 2007, and will now have further opportunities to qualify for World Cups," said Porterfield referring to Ireland`s famous win against Pakistan in 2007 and England in the subsequent edition.
For left-hand wicketkeeper batsman Niall O`Brien, playing a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand will be a dream come true.
"It gives all the players light at the end of the tunnel, and it`s an amazing goal to work towards. To play in a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand would be a dream come true for me personally, having played so many years in club cricket in Sydney."
Fast bowler Boyd Rankin who was Ireland`s leading wicket taker in 2007 was relieved after his team got another opportunity to compete in the game`s biggest event.
"A lot of us thought we may have played in our last 50-over World Cup, and that would have been hard to take. We realise that there`s still the qualification hurdle to overcome, but at least we have the chance on the field of play, which is all ourselves and the other Associates have ever asked for."