Kamal Merchant has been granted Irish citizenship, formalizing a love affair with Ireland which began 38 years ago in his adopted homeland.

Kamal, who was a successful all-rounder first visited these shores back in 1983 when he played at Downpatrick in the NCU.

His feats became legendary in a glittering career at The Meadow, and later with Cliftonville and YMCA.

While his playing career could be described as stellar, it's in the field of coaching where he has made an indelible mark at Claremont Road, helping mould and inspire the next generation of young cricketers.

His work was recognized by the governing body when he was the winner of the Cricket Ireland Coach of the Year Award back in 2013.

"It's fantastic news and has given everyone a real lift," said YMCA President Heatley Tector.

"Kamal is the heartbeat of all things YMCA, His fingerprints were all over the team that won the All-Ireland last year.

"He is as pleasant a man now as he was when he first came to Ireland all those years ago. He certainly epitomises the word 'gentleman'.

"While obviously an excellent technical coach, he also places huge emphasis on respect and is a firm believer that it's a pre-requisite for all successful cricketers.

"You only have to see the welcome he receives from all the four corners of Ireland to see just how highly regarded he is by all."

Kamal Merchant: Pic by Rodney Smythe

For Kamal, the granting of citizenship is a dream came true and he was clearly delighted at the news.

"I loved Ireland from the first moment I came. The warmth and friendliness of the people shone through from day one. It felt like home and I knew I wanted it to become my new home.

"I got to know all the people through my coaching which I've dedicated my life to. It's not a job, it's a calling.

"To get Irish citizenship fills me with such joy, and I hope now that my family will join me in this beautiful, peaceful, and joyful country where I have found such comfort and happiness.

"I'd like to thank all who helped me on this journey over the past years, especially my former team mates and colleagues at Downpatrick, Cliftonville and YMCA. I have been truly blessed."

The news of Kamal's citizenship was met with widespread joy as tributes poured in across social media with politicians, international sports stars, colleagues and friends acknowledging the impact that he has made in his new homeland.

Cead mile failte Kamal O'Merchant...