The legion of Irish fans that have travelled to the Caribbean will return home with extraordinary memories. Some many even return with broken bones.

We’re not suggesting that there will be anything but a sporting encounter in the Cayman Islands versus Jamaica Gaelic football match that takes place in Ocho Rios today.

But there may be a bit of spice at the Melbourne CC ground in Kingston when the locals turn up at noon today for a game against an Irish side. The Melbourne Invitation XI is a strong one, including in its ranks eight former West Indies players, including such greats as Courtney Walsh and Laurence Rowe.

They may prove a bit strong for the Dublin side, the Terenure Taverners.

We sense a little bit of a communications breakdown here, as the taverners side is essentially a group of drinkers who like to throw the bat in 20-over games on summer Friday evenings.

Facing the eponymous great at the Courtney Walsh Drive ground - even in retirement - is probably still a bit quicker than they are used to. The Irishmen responsible for this fixture were hard to find in Kingston yesterday.

Presumably they were practicing. Or buying helmets.

The TV cameras have been zooming in on a 6′8″ inch leprechaun who has an extraordinary amount of energy. The man in question is Adrian Raftery and he has travelled here from Sydney. Kylie, his wife of six days, is here too and smiles indulgently at his antics. Raftery’s parents are from Galway and he visited Ireland last year as a member of the Australia over-35s team that played a three-test series of International Rules against Ireland.

There was a nice bonus for the Irish Cricket Union from Thursday’s tie with Zimbabwe. Winners of each pool match receive $10,000 and the losers $5,000. The extra $2,500 that Niall O’Brien secured off the last ball will come in handy when the bills come in for this trip.

Ireland opener Will Porterfield has a burning ambition to make a career of cricket with an English county side.

He told Inside Edge over the course of this weekend that he has had talks with both Kent and Gloucestershire but is likely to opt for the latter. “They want me to go over after the World Cup, ” he said. That’s not likely to endear him to his teammates as Gloucestershire are Ireland’s first opponents in the one-day Friends Provident League on 22 April. That game at Clontarf will be the first chance for the Irish public to salute its World Cup heroes.

A year ago Porterfield was way down the pecking order in the Ireland squad but a conversation with Adi Birrell set him on the road to Sabina. “He thought it would be beneficial for me to play cricket in Ireland again, so I joined Rush.

Playing in Dublin was the best option - it’s a better league, playing better cricket. I thought I’d get a bit more exposure too, so it worked out well for me.” It’s been a busy few years for the 22-year-old from the Donemana club in Derry.

He spent three years studying at Bradford-Leeds UCCE, which gave him three games a year against county teams, and he also spent four summers on the MCC Young Cricketers programme.

With a couple of retirements expected and the prospect of county deals taking others away, it may be a very different Ireland team that defends its ICC Intercontinental Cup next month. The game will be held on the County Ground in Chelmsford, Essex on 21-24 May.

A new Irish anthem will be aired at Sabina, thanks to former Hills cricketer Martin Byrne. The contest organised by the Fingal Independent had a huge entry but Byrne emerged from the final five with ‘C’mon Ireland’.

Songsheets and CDs of the tunes will be distributed to fans heading to the Caribbean. The winning song begins:

“You can talk about Italia and Euro ‘88.
With the oval ball in Croke Park the future’s looking great.

Now we’re on a new adventure and things are on the up.

We are going to Jamaica for the cricket world cup.

C’mon Ireland c’mon Ireland.

We’re going to bring the world cup back and win or lose we’re going to have the craic.”

My own favourite chant is the old advert for bread adopted for Adi’s Army.

Altogether now: “Johnston, Mooneys and O’Briens. . .”

Ed Joyce won’t be the only member of his clan ‘on duty’ in the Caribbean. Brother Damian, himself a long-time 1st XI player at Merrion, will be there to assist any Irish people in need of help on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs. He will be based in the British High Commission in Kingston.

The Jamaicans have realised that the biggest group of visiting fans - more than 1,500 - will come from the smallest cricketing nation. There are several events to entertain the fans, the biggest of which is the JamPatrick’s Day IrishFest in Ocho Rios. A ‘celtic band’ and Irish dancers will be among the delights in the Sunset Grande hotel from 6pm to 2am. “We are encouraging everybody to come out and experience everything that is Irish”, said hotel MD Ian Kerr, “we will have Irish stew, corn beef, cabbage and Guinness”. Not all in the same glass, presumably.

Signs that there’s a new wind blowing for Irish cricket: TG4 giveS cricket a run tonight when the ‘An Tua Nua’ programme focuses on the Irish team and the lead up to their departure to the West Indies. Starts at 7pm.

Signs that there’s still a long way to go: Its now 26 years since RTE showed live cricket. Maybe cricket fans don’t pay their licence fees?

Phil Simmons has been training with the Irish team ahead of taking over as coach after the world cup.

Perhaps they discussed a UCB Bowl game in South Africa from January 1997 when Simmons was dismissed c Prince b Birrell for 25, one of Adi’s 8-134, the best bowling of his career for Eastern Province.

Days to the World Cup: 4 Ireland have recorded four wins in all against the teams we will meet in Jamaica. The hosts were beaten in 1928, 1969 and 2004, while Zimbabwe were trounced by 10 wickets in 2003. Ireland have yet to beat Pakistan, but here’s hoping!

GRIM news for Ireland fans hoping to watch the three firstround games in the Cricket World Cup. The first game, against Zimbabwe, will be shown on Sky Sports 1, which is widely accessible to subscribers in this country. However, Sky Sports have allotted the Ireland v Pakistan and Ireland v West Indies games to their ‘red button’ interactive service which is not available to NTL or Chorus subscribers.

As it stands, only the tiny number of subscribers to the Sky satellite package can watch these fixtures. Some pubs, clubs and hotels subscribe to Sky, and they are sure to gain plenty of custom in the next fortnight.

All is not well in Jamaica either in advance of the arrival of Adi’s Army. The local corporate sector have been blamed for not getting behind the ICC’s cultural programme.

Several ‘Team Jamaica Tourist Villages’ have been abandoned and events cancelled. The city, already boasting one of the highest crime rates in the world, has seen its murder rate rocket since the year began, with 140 murders in the capital in January alone.

With all the fuss about flag-flying last weekend you would think the Wisden Cricketer might have been alert to the sensitivities of Irish sport. The leading UK magazine hoists a tricolour atop its half-page coverage of Ireland this month.

Adi Birrell is known as ‘Mr One Percent’, but not due to any creaming of agents’ fees or anything like that. The Irish coach sees the concentration on tiny improvements as crucial in cricketing situations when an inch or a tenth of a second can be the difference between success and failure.

One area he focused on was vision, and he brought in the Belfast firm SportsVision International to work on the squad’s eyesight.

Kyle McCallan is enthusiastic about their work: “The visual exercises that Susan Park has developed definitely played a major part in our development. I know that my depth perception has improved and my batting has improved as a result.”

The Pakistani ambassador, Toheed Ahmad, brought the house down with his offer of a ‘deal’ with Ireland at the launch of the book 100 Greats of Irish Cricket last week. Toheed, a cricket fanatic, suggested that his compatriots had gone easy on Bangladesh in the 1999 World Cup and that a similar arrangement might be made with the ICU. Ireland skipper Trent Johnston, at the launch with three of his squad, was unable to comment!

Signs that there’s a new wind blowing for Irish cricket: there are 70 ex-pats making the trip from the Cayman Islands to Jamaica, and they have organised to play a match in Ocho Rios on the day after JamPatrick’s Day. The 70 are all members of the Cayman Islands Gaelic Football Club and the match is a GAA one.

Signs that we still have a long way to go: The new ads for Sky Sports’ CWC coverage feature various members of the British public making comments about the teams they support. No disrespect to our brothers on the sites in the UK, but perhaps the station is in a ’50s timewarp when its Irish and Scots representatives are two gap-toothed boyos digging a hole.

Days to go to the World Cup: 11. Peter Gillespie and Alan Lewis both made 11 ducks in Ireland colours, with the Strabane man notching up three in his last three ODIs. He won’t want to progress much further up a table topped by such greats such as Jimmy Boucher (18), Ossie Colhoun (17) and Angus Dunlop (16).

A Century of Cans: the winner of the 100 cans of Foster’s is John Threadgold of Halverstown. All round to John’s!