Cricket Ireland hope the sport will rival football, rugby and GAA by 2020

The governing body launched their new five-year plan on Tuesday

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Ireland cricket internationals Peter Chase, George Dockrell, Max Sorensen and Andrew Balbirnie Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Cricket Ireland have launched an ambitious five-year plan to become a mainstream sport, with the goal of taking the game to new audiences and beginning to rival the popularity of football, rugby and GAA by 2020.

Not content with grabbing the headlines every few years with stunning performances on the global stage - like beating Pakistan, England and the West Indies at the World Cup - cricket wants a permanent place in the consciousness of the Irish public.

"Our goal of playing Test matches by the end of 2020 needs to be broader and more ambitious – it needs to envision Ireland not just being a major force in cricket, but cricket being a major force in Ireland," said Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom.

"When we think of ‘major’ in Ireland, we think of GAA, rugby and football. Well, why not cricket too?," said Deutrom. "We need to shift perceptions of cricket as an elitist, exclusive sport to one that is open and accessible to all. We need to de-mystify the sport for the Irish public by making it visible, accessible, affordable and inspiring."

More games against Full Members is one way of achieving this aim and Deutrom revealed two further fixtures for the men's senior team against Hong Kong in September.

These are in addition to the 11 ODI's already scheduled against Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia this year, while a further announcement of more ODI's in 2017 will be made tomorrow in Belfast.

Ireland international cricketers, Lucy O'Reilly, Laura Delaney, Jennifer Gray, Isobel Joyce and Leah Paul. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

In a further boost for the women's game, he also announced six home matches for Ireland Women against Bangladesh, in addition to the seven games already scheduled this summer against South Africa.

In his speech to assembled guests, Deutrom outlined the importance of club cricket to the success of the strategic plan, and announced a new scheme to help clubs grow in addition to the support currently provided by the governing body.

"The Cricket Ireland plan recognises clubs as the hub of the sport and places them at the centre of focus for grass-roots development, helping them benefit from the record number of participants at school and youth level currently enjoying the game. We are launching a club fund to assist the clubs with grants for equipment and facilities in addition to the practical support we provide already."

The KPC Group were unveiled at the event as main team sponsor for the next three years as well as headline sponsor of the forthcoming home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and the prestigious Cricket Ireland Awards.

The latest sponsorship boost was welcomed by Cricket Ireland Commercial Director Dennis Cousins who said: "Our new partnership with The KPC Group reflects our growing profile worldwide and our commercial appeal to global brands.

"It’s an exciting partnership  for Cricket Ireland which will help us to achieve many of the objectives set out in our new Strategic Plan. Working with The KPC Group will enable us to further extend our reach and to continue to bring Irish cricket to a wider global audience.”