Ireland batsman Paul Stirling believes he still has plenty of years left at the top level as he begins a new chapter of his career as a contracted Cricket Ireland player.
The 29-year-old has left Middlesex after 10 years playing county cricket and is the new Ireland vice-captain.
“I think my best years are still to come,” said Stirling, who has joined NCU Premier League side North Down.
“I haven’t reached my full potential and I want to reach that potential.”
“Whether that takes five, six, seven years hopefully I can be a better player by the time that comes,” he added.
“I think there’s a lot of talent that hasn’t been unearthed yet and it’s up to me to make the best use of it. That’s the reason I still keep going.”
‘I’d love to go on as long as possible’
Stirling insists the motivation to improve further and achieve more means any thoughts of retirement are well and truly on the backburner as he contemplates a new challenge.
“I just love the game of cricket – it’s something I have done since I was five years old and I wouldn’t want to stop. I don’t see myself getting to 35 or 36 and thinking to myself ‘I’ve had enough here’.
“I’d love to go on as long as possible – I’ve been fortunate to not have had bad injuries in my career and hopefully that stays the same.
“Fitness comes into it, even more so in your 30s and that’s something I have to address if I really want to go on as long as I can, Certainly I don’t want to think about not playing the game anymore.”
2007 World Cup heroes an inspiration
The recent lockdown restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus allowed Stirling to reflect on some of his own and the Ireland squad’s achievements, the journey they have travelled to secure Full Member status.
“It’s been remarkable and these last three months have given me the chance to sit back and have a look at it, what has actually happened,” explained the Ireland opener.
“There are always critics and there should be but it makes me laugh when you consider how far Ireland have come in a short period of time. You almost laugh it off because you are going to have tough performances and no-one is going to get everything right all the time – that is impossible.
“Whenever you do have a tough time then you look back. We had just started giving professional contracts, not many of them, and everyone was working full-time around it.
“To come from there to playing a Test at Lords last year – how can that happen in a short period of time?
“It’s remarkable the journey that Irish cricket has been on and thinking back it was the 2007 World Cup that I watched with the most intrigue.
“They were my heroes – beating Pakistan and drawing with Zimbabwe in the group stage – that’s when I said ‘You know what, I’ll have a bit of that please’.