The International Cricket Council has awarded the country's domestic competition first-class status
Ireland have moved another step closer to becoming a Test cricket playing nation.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has awarded the country's domestic competition, the Hanley Energy Inter-Provincial Championship, first-class status
Ireland hope to play their first ever international Test match in 2019, with England possible opponents for that maiden encounter.
Three teams compete in the Hanley Energy Inter-Provincial Championship with Leinster Lightning, Northern Knights and North-West Warriors taking part in the 2016 edition.
It is the first time first-class status has been awarded to a domestic competition outside of a Test-playing country.
"It's important as firstly, it elevates the perception of the competition, and places the inter-pros statistically and status-wise at the same level of all first-class cricket around the world in established Test nations," said Cricket Ireland CEO Warren Deutrom.
"Playing first-class domestic cricket is a significant milestone on our long-stated journey to become a Test nation and is what the full members do – if we want to be considered among the front rank of nations, then so must we."
The development was also welcomed by Ireland head coach John Bracewell.
He said: "First-class cricket is the vital link between part-time cricket and the full commitment of the international game. It is connected to your value in world cricket, historically.This to me is key for Irish-based players willing to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the standards required to compete at the pinnacle of our sport. Over the last two seasons watching domestic cricket in Ireland I have seen consistent performances from top quality cricketers who deserve to have these recognised. The standard of play is not only highly competitive but also First Class in its output."
The Inter-Provincial Championship was first launched in 2013 with the inaugural tournament played that year.
Leinster Lightning were the debut champions of the three-team format.