Ireland coach Phil Simmons has sounded a confident note about his team’s prospects in next year’s Cricket World Cup, insisting “we believe we can beat anybody”.
Simmons' side face a tough pool at the competition in Australia in New Zealand as they will come up against the much-fancied West Indies, South Africa, India and Pakistan.
However, Ireland will have their eye on a place in this year's quarter-finals, which would require a top-four finish in Pool B.
So Ireland would need to beat at least one of the four favourites as well as Zimbabwe and UAE to make it through to the last eight.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, Simmons was optimistic about Ireland’s chances of reaching the knock-out stages of the tournament despite the presence of so many strong sides.
“We’ve got a very good chance of getting out of the group,” said Simmons.
“I think it’s a hard group from the point of that it’s a World Cup and no team is easy. But our cricket itself has been improving. We look at it now that in every race, we have a 50-50 chance of beating the other team, and we have just got to make sure that our plans are done properly.”
The former West Indies all-rounder dismissed the notion that Ireland could take for granted that they would easily beat Zimbabwe and the UAE and then have to beat one of the big four to get out of the group.
Instead, he insisted he was concentrating on their opening game, a showdown with the West Indies that had a personal element for him.
“If you start looking at it like that you get complacent in the two games,” he said. “There’s no complacency.
“The biggest game of the tournament will be the first game because if we can win the first game then we’re on the round to getting to the next round. So I think that’s the biggest game. And it’s a personal big game for me, too.
“Once we get through that and we come out of that with a win, then we know we’re in the driver’s seat.”
Asked whether the players shared his belief that they could beat the West Indies, Simmons said simply: “We’re at the stage now where we believe we can beat anybody in the world.
“I think, had we been like this a few years ago when we played Australia in Clontarf [in 2010] we would have beaten Australia then.
“And now I think the guys are at that stage where, once we go on the field, we know we can win.”
He said that Ireland had been working on planning and execution over the last three months, and said: “once we plan properly, and we execute our skills properly, we can win against anybody in that tournament.”
Simmons said that Ireland’s form over the last two weeks at a training camp in Dubai had been “the best I’ve seen since 2011 [and] the World Cup.
"The sharpness and the hunger in everybody’s eyes: I mean, the youngsters want to make the team, but the senior guys, the hunger in their eyes for what we were doing was great to see.”
Ireland have made their mark in the last two World Cups, beating England in the 2011 event, while they qualified for the Super Eight stage of the 2007 competition in the Caribbean, beating Pakistan and Bangladesh.