Phil Simmons will bring his Ireland squad to the Caribbean in the New Year to take part in the revamped Nagico Super50 tournament as they continue to solidify their quest to join the top table of international cricket.
With the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh just a couple of months away and the 2015 World Cup on the horizon, Ireland hope to use the three-week tournament to gain vital exposure against quality opposition.
They will become the eighth team of the West Indian domestic one-day tournament, which has been newly rebranded after the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced a three-year sponsorship deal with insurance company Nagico.
"The WICB is pleased to welcome Nagico on board as a partner in West Indies cricket. Sponsorship is a vital part of any sport and we applaud Nagico for their commitment to the game of cricket ,"Michael Muirhead, CEO of the WICB, said.
"We look forward to a long and fruitful association which will enhance the game in the Caribbean. This new commitment by Nagico, we believe, will be a great benefit to West Indies cricket and the development of the game in the region."
The 2014 edition, which begins on 30th January, will feature Barbados, Combined Campuses & Colleges, Guyana, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Windward Islands, and Phil Simmons' side.
Ireland recetly underlined their status as the leading Associate/Affiliate nation by claiming a historic treble by adding the ICC Intercontinental Cup trophy to their World Cricket League and World Twenty20 Qualifier titles.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for Ireland's cricketers to play in this prestigious competition," Irish head coach Simmons, who played 169 times for the West Indies in Test and ODI cricket, said.
"There's no doubt that the matches will be of a very high standard and it's a perfect platform for Irish cricket to show the West Indian public just how far their cricket has progressed in the past few years.
"The Caribbean holds a special place in Irish cricket history - for many this was where our unique journey started in 2007, and hopefully will be the catalyst that sees Ireland eventually be granted Test status by 2020," the former all-rounder added.
Cricket Ireland Performance Director Richard Holdsworth paid tribute to the WICB for the invitation: "We're extremely grateful to the West Indies Cricket Board for this opportunity. It will give the squad exposure to a high standard of competition which is vital as we prepare for the 2015 World Cup."
The addition of Ireland as an eighth team and the commitment of a new sponsor is a timely boost for a tournament which has struggled to capture the imagination of the cricket loving Caribbean faithful in recent years.
Canada, United States and Bermuda have all been previously invited to take part in the tournament in an attempt to boost numbers while the West Indies U19 side have also been involved.
Unlike previous years, the tournament will be split up into two groups of four thanks to Ireland’s participation but Simmons is adamant his side aren’t going just to make up the numbers.
"We won't be coming just to make up the numbers - we're here to try and win the trophy, and while it will be difficult given the calibre of opponents, there's no fear factor in Irish cricket any more. We have much to be proud of and this past season where we won all three trophies we competed in has given the squad great confidence going into 2014," he said.
Ireland have been drawn in Zone A alongside Guyana, The Windward Islands and Jamaica, with all of their games taking place at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad.
The group stages are scheduled to conclude on February 8th with the final taking place a week later.
© Cricket World 2013