Prior to 2020, Irish players were able to play county cricket without issue, but it was announced that these rules would change in 2017 when Ireland were granted Test status
Middlesex batsman Paul Stirling will leave the county at the end of the season after choosing to commit his future to playing international cricket for Ireland.
Prior to 2020, Irish players were able to play county cricket without issue, but it was announced that these rules would change in 2017 when Ireland were granted Test status.
In order to avoid potential legal difficulties, it was then agreed that Ireland cricketers would be able to continue playing in county cricket through 2018 and 2019 – an agreement that finishes at the end of the current season.
Thus, for Stirling to remain at Middlesex or, indeed, return to the club in the future, he would have to do so as an overseas player.
The swashbuckling right-hander made his first-team debut in 2010, playing nearly 200 games since. He has made his greatest impact at the club in white-ball cricket, making eight one-day hundreds in the process. His part-time off-spin has also proven useful; he has taken 62 wickets in his time with the Lord’s outfit.
Middlesex managing director of cricket Angus Fraser said of the 29-year-old’s impeding departure: “From a selfish and Middlesex point of view it is obviously sad to see Paul leave. His aggressive and destructive batting has thrilled Middlesex players and supporters for a number of years.
“There have been many Middlesex cricketers that have scored more runs than Paul but very few have played innings as memorable. I will never forget the afternoon he and Eoin Morgan scored hundreds against Lancashire as Middlesex smashed 350 in a 40 over game. I have seen very few players strike the ball like him and he has been a joy to work with.
Paul Stirling has played in all three of Ireland's Test matches to date
"The Middlesex coaches and myself totally understand Paul's decision. It has not been an easy one and I know he has thought about it long and hard. Playing for your country is something that should never be taken for granted. It is an honour and a privilege, and to finish a career with regrets is something nobody wants to do.
"He will always be welcome at Lord's and if he ever feels like coming back to play for us in any capacity he has my phone number.”
Stirling added: "It's been a real privilege to represent Middlesex Cricket over the last decade and it has been an unforgettable journey for many reasons.
“Winning the Championship in 2016 was undoubtedly the highlight on the field while also receiving my county cap will be something I will cherish for a very long time.
“However, it was the relationships built with the players, staff and supporters that was the most rewarding and that I will miss the most. I would like to thank everyone I've met along the way at the club for their support over the years and wish Middlesex every success in the coming years.
“I am looking forward to the next chapter with Ireland, with a busy year in 2020 and the T20 World Cup Qualifier coming up it is an exciting time to be a part of.”
The schedule for the upcoming qualifying tournament has also been revealed; Stirling’s Ireland side will begin their campaign with a clash against Hong Kong.