Ireland have named a 16-man squad for back-to-back ODI series against UAE and Afghanistan in January 2021, which will be their first international matches since a 2-1 ODI series loss in England this August. The squad comprises the majority of the group that travelled to England over the summer, though there is no place for George Dockrell, William Porterfield and Boyd Rankin, as head coach Graham Ford continues to bring through a new generation of young players.
Gary Wilson also misses out, staying at home to attend the birth of his second child, and will be unable to join the squad afterwards due to Covid-19 protocols. As a result, 20-year-old Ireland A wicketkeeper Neil Rock has been included as back-up to the regular Lorcan Tucker.
Twenty two-year-old fast bowler David Delany has also been included in the ODI squad, and is in line to make his ODI debut. Delany, who is allrounder Gareth's cousin, had played in the T20 World Cup qualifiers in 2019 but has since been missing through injury. He was preferred to Peter Chase, who had travelled with the squad to England but whose last ODI had come against Afghanistan in 2018.
Ireland had hoped to play a series in the UAE before Christmas and made plans for a triangular tournament also involving Scotland and the hosts, but the boards were unable to come to an agreement in time.
Instead, they will now play a four-match ODI series against UAE in January, with dates to be confirmed in the coming days. The fixtures will form part of the same tour as their World Cup Super League series against Afghanistan, which is due to be staged in Abu Dhabi.
Several players and support staff will remain in "Covid-safe conditions" at home in case replacements need to be flown out at some point in the series, according to a Cricket Ireland media release.
Ford said that despite playing only three internationals since March's lockdown, he felt as though his squad had made good progress during the year.
"It goes without saying that 2020 has been a difficult year, but the lads have acquitted themselves well and can be proud of what they have managed to achieve," he said.
"We've beaten the T20 World Champions West Indies in a T20I in the Caribbean [this year], beaten Afghanistan for the first time in a T20I in the subcontinent and beaten the current World Cup champions England in their own backyard [during the ODI series in August]. Those wins have helped build self-belief within the players and have demonstrated the progress we are making as a squad.
"We have two challenging series ahead of us, but we're looking to create a sense of momentum going into a big year - a year that will feature multiple tours, a full home season and a T20 World Cup at the back end."
The tour will be Ireland's first since Stuart Barnes joined the support staff as assistant coach and national bowling lead on a full-time basis, after his secondment from Somerset during the England series last summer.
Ireland ODI squad to play UAE and Afghanistan: Andy Balbirnie (capt), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, David Delany, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Kevin O'Brien, Neil Rock, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young