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Pride intact, Ireland's Indian express rolls on

IRELAND'S cricketers and their Bollywood love story left Bangalore and headed for Mohali today as their great Indian odyssey headed north.

After a valiant performance against India, Sachin Tendulkar and one billion Indians, Ireland will face the West Indies on Friday trying to keep their World Cup dream alive.

The Irish left this morning after winning the hearts of a city -- and scaring the life out of the most cricket-mad nation on earth.

India's superior firepower accounted for Ireland in the end, but there was much praise for our battling sportsmen.

"Ireland make India sweat" was the headline in the Deccan Herald newspaper. "India survive trial by Ire," wrote the Times of India.

But the Irish players weren't revelling in this glory -- they were seriously disappointed at letting a chance to record another big win slip.

"It wasn't easy to get going", said skipper William Porterfield, "but we stuck at it and looked like getting a competitive total of 250-260.

"Unfortunately Niall O'Brien got out at the wrong time, and then when we recovered again I got out. Our total wasn't enough but we had a good go at defending it."

Ireland's hopes of snatching a shock win were dashed when talismanic bowler Trent Johnston limped off after 10 overs.

"I fell in my follow through and banged down hard on my knee", Johnston told the Herald early today.

"I've been for scans and there's no break or ligament damage.

"I have deep bone bruising, which is a bit sore. Plenty of ice should see me right."

Sporting an enormous leg brace that severely restricts movement, Johnston was positive about his chances of playing against the West Indies on Friday.

"I don't know how I'm going to get on to the plane to Chandigarh," he joked, "but when we get settled in the new base we'll have a look at it and see how it goes. I don't want to miss another game against the Windies."

At the 2007 World Cup, Johnston was forced to sit out the fixture against the West Indies after dislocating a shoulder when diving for a catch in the victory over Pakistan.

The India press were sure the absence of the big man from Wollongong helped their team.

"If Trent Johnston had not gone off after bowling five overs if could have been even closer," said the Bangalore Mirror.

Indian and Irish fans mixed freely after the game and shared bottles of the local Kingfisher brew.

"It was a fantastic occasion," said Greg Molins from Dublin. "India is so passionate about cricket and they really appreciate how good Ireland are."

hnews@herald.ie