Photo Credit: Cricket Ireland
Irish cricket legend William Porterfield has today announced his retirement from international cricket – leaving the game with many records and memorable performances, including being the longest-serving Ireland Men’s captain by some considerable distance.
Porterfield, 37, amassed 310 caps (across all formats) for Ireland after making his international debut in a First-class match against Namibia in May 2006. He ends his career as the third most capped Irish international and second-highest run-scorer for Ireland.
The left-handed top-order batter, who started out playing his club cricket with Donemana, struck the first of his 18 centuries for Ireland against the MCC in a one-day match at Lord’s in August 2006, going on to register 9,507 runs for Ireland at an average of 31.07, and a best of 186 against Namibia in 2015.
Of his more iconic innings, Irish fans fondly remember his 107 against Pakistan in Adelaide at the 2015 Men’s World Cup and his 112 against England in an ODI at Malahide in 2013 as two of his best knocks
A renowned slip fielder and inner-ring fielder, he also took 146 catches and effected 24 run outs during his international career.
Porterfield made the move early to base himself in England, after featuring for the MCC Young Cricketers, and had a successful county career with Gloucestershire and Warwickshire. In latter years, he became a stalwart of the North West Warriors in the Inter-Provincial Series in Ireland, showing his enduring run-scoring abilities finishing fourth-highest run-scorer in both the domestic 50-over and T20 competitions in 2021.
As a captain, Porterfield led the senior Irish side an incredible 253 times – taking over from former skipper Trent Johnston in 2008 at the age of 23 (the second-most appearances as Irish captain was Johnston with 60). Adding to his longevity in leadership roles, Porterfield had also led national youth sides from Under-13s level upwards, and also took the reins of an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI side that played an England XI in 2012. He led Ireland to two 50-over World Cups and five T20 World Cups, but perhaps his most significant moment as captain was leading Ireland Men’s team out at its historic first-ever Test match in May 2018.
Speaking from home about his retirement announcement, Porterfield said:
“It’s been an honour to represent my country for 16 years – it’s something I had always wanted to do since I was a child. I have to say, though, it’s a little surreal at the moment having made the decision to step away and retire, but I’ve been fortunate to play since 2006 and it’s been an incredible journey.
“During my career, we’ve gone from an amateur team right through to now being a Test nation. From those before me, and along my journey, we have hopefully built an infrastructure that will allow the game in Ireland to continue to flourish. All I ever wanted to do was leave the shirt in a better place and leave the team in a better place, and hopefully I’ve played a part in doing that.
“As I said, it feels a little surreal today, but I also feel the time is right to be stepping away – I’ve been given the opportunity to join Gloucestershire as a Consultant Coach until the end of the season, and these opportunities don’t come around very often. It’s a decision I’ve been thinking long and hard about over the last week or so – and I’d like to thank Cricket Ireland for allowing me to get up and going in the role over the last while. Coaching is something I’d like to be involved in next, and after talking to my fiancé Hayley, my dad and a few other people I have decided to pursue this opportunity.
“There are so many memories that I will take away from my career, but one of my most treasured memories is receiving my first cap from the great Roy Torrens. Roy is a legend in Irish cricket, and up until he unfortunately passed away, he was pretty much at every one of my games in some capacity. He epitomised what Cricket Ireland and Irish cricket was to me, really someone I looked up to.
“Then there’s Sabina Park – where I played my last match for Ireland. It’s the ground where a lot of people say put Irish cricket on the map. That ground holds so many memories for me, right through from the Pakistan win in 2007 to walking off the field back in January having beaten the West Indies 2-1. In the build up to the games, a lot of the younger members of the squad were reminiscing as to where they were when we beat Pakistan on that day, and how that inspired them, and that was a lot of what it was about for me. The realisation for me that I was the only surviving member of that team on the pitch that day was when Mackey, our liaison officer from the 2007 World Cup, called from the stand to say hello and asked who else was here from that trip! It was only Nobby who was there on comms at the games, so that did make me feel a little old!
“There are so many people I’d like to thank for being part of my cricket journey, my parents for everything over the years, Hayley my fiancé, Lily my step-daughter for their sacrifices over the years, and the many teammates and coaches.
“I have had so many great coaches – right through from junior cricket to now. Brían O’Rourke was one who was there looking after us from a very young age. He took us on a lot of tours, helped us develop – he’s been a great coach and presence in Irish Cricket over the years and helped to mentor many of my age that came through. There’s Adi Birrell who gave me my debut and gave me belief that I could make it as a professional cricketer. There’s Simmo [Phil Simmons] who really helped me through some hard times especially around the leadership after I had taken over at a relatively young age. Bracers who I enjoyed working with at GCCC and Ireland. And then there’s Fordy [Graham Ford] who has had a great impact on the squad that is coming through. And now Heinrich [Malan] who is taking Irish cricket into an exciting stage.
“When I think of all my teammates I played with, there are just too many to thank individually. But to get to play with close mates for so long like Gary Wilson, Paul Stirling Balbo [Andrew Balbirnie] and Scra [Andy McBrine], Kev [O’Brien], Boyd [Rankin], Joycey [Ed Joyce], Murts [Tim Murtagh] but to name a few, having those lads around for so long was brilliant. Then going back to those in TJ’s era – playing with the likes of Kyle [McCallan] and Whitey [Andrew White], as well as John Boy [John Mooney] – really everyone I played with over such a long time I just want to say thanks.
“I would also like to that Cricket Ireland as an organisation for giving me the backing and support to not only play for my country for so long, but captain my country for 11 and a half years.
“I would like to say a special thank you to Gloucestershire CCC and Warwickshire CCC for giving me the opportunity to learn and develop my game over a 10 year spell in County Cricket. To have the opportunity to win every domestic trophy in England, is something I’ll always treasure.
“I’d like to also thank all of those at Cricket Ireland and the North West Cricket Union. Richard Holdsworth and Warren Deutrom have been fantastic support, while in the North West, people like Peter McCartney, Ian McGregor, Gary Wilson and big Boyd who is coaching now have been immense. Both Cricket Ireland and the North West have helped me get a start in my coaching journey, and for that I am grateful.
“Finally, the journey from amateur to fully-contracted players – both men and women – in Ireland has been rewarding one for all involved, and when it comes to player welfare and support another project I am proud of is playing a part in getting the Irish Cricketers Association set up. As a professional cricketer in England, I could see the way the PCA really supports the players, and it really helped lay the foundations for the ICA to take on a similar role here in Ireland. Looking after player welfare, not only during a playing career, but providing support after – the PCA have been great at that, and that is the direction the ICA is going. I look forward to seeing the ICA grow over coming years.”
Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland Men’s captain, said:
“It’s a huge loss when an absolute pillar of the game calls time on his career. William has been an amazing person to have in the dressing room, as a player and as a person. A lot of the foundations that were laid for this current Irish team were done by him and teams that came before us.
“He always epitomised what we wanted to do as a team – his work ethic, his attitude on the pitch and his passion for the game. He’ll be a huge loss around the senior group, but we wish him well in his next stage of life, and hope he has an amazing time. Undoubtedly he’ll be a success at whatever path he chooses to go down.”
Gary Wilson, former Irish international, said:
“I’ve known William since we were 12 years old and there is no one that you would rather have by your side on the pitch. To walk out with him was to know that he had your back no matter what, whether you were playing your first game or your last. His sole objective was always to do what he thought was the right thing to win the game regardless of anything else.
“What he has done for Ireland over the past 16 years since he made his debut you simply cannot put into words. To lead the team for over 11 years after taking on the captaincy aged 23 is a phenomenal effort, and to have achieved the level of personal success whilst doing so is all the more remarkable. No one has had a greater impact on Ireland’s rise to the top table of international cricket.
“Everyone will be pointing to what a great ambassador for the sport and the country William has been, and rightly so – I’ve just been lucky enough to have had the closest of front row seats. I’ve no doubt his parents, William and Alison and his Partner Hayley and step-daughter Lily will be the proudest of people for what William has achieved and rightly so. Humble, loyal, tough, fair, selfless, I’m proud to have played alongside William but I’m even more proud to consider him my mate.”
Andrew White, Chair of National Men’s Selectors, said:
“It’s very difficult to put into words the impact that William has had on Irish cricket. Runs, runs and more runs but for me it was the character behind the man that will make him extremely hard to replace. Always gutsy, disciplined, determined and skilful but the team came first and he wanted nothing more than for Ireland to win games of cricket.
“He was always destined to become Ireland captain but leading us from associate cricket to that incredible first day at Lord’s against England is something he should be immensely proud of.
“One of the best fielders in the world game at the peak of his powers and he drove the standards around him to the extent where we were one of the best fielding teams around. His career in many ways can be summed up by his performances last summer where he fought through an injury to score 70-odd against South Africa followed by runs against Zimbabwe on bowler friendly and testing surfaces in must win World Cup Qualifying games. He handled pressure better than most.
“On a personal level it was fantastic to share some incredible moments on the field with him and the respect he is held in by team mates past and present is immense. We wish him every success as he moves forward into the next phase of life.”
Richard Holdsworth, High Performance Director at Cricket Ireland, said:
“It’s a sad day when any long-standing member of the senior squad steps away, but even more so when it’s William Porterfield. Sometimes the use of the word ‘legend’ is used too casually, but it absolutely applies in William’s case. His leadership over many years has been outstanding, not only his on-field captaincy, but his mentoring and coaching of many players has been of great benefit to the Irish game.
“Off the field he has been an ambassador for the sport in Ireland and around the world, and he has taken an active interest in player welfare and the formation of the Irish Cricketers Association.
“One aspect that fans may never have fully appreciated, but which demonstrated his commitment to Ireland and to his teammates was the endless travelling and juggling William willingly undertook to make himself available for Ireland. Despite his professional county commitments, William was rarely missing when Ireland played. Even to this very season, his commitment to Irish cricket was also through the playing, coaching and mentoring roles with the North West Warriors, as well as combining his playing duties with Ireland with a coaching consultancy role in the national set-up.
“I know that all of Cricket Ireland’s staff, Board Members and, in fact, the whole Irish cricket community hold William in extremely high regard and wish him well with the next stage in life.”