Challenge is motivation enough, says Ireland head coach Ed Joyce

Ireland head coach Ed Joyce. © Cricket Ireland

Despite the unforeseen challenges that cricket has been going through for the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland head coach Ed Joyce is enthusiastic as ever to push the women’s cricket forward. He also stressed on the fact the hurdles upfront are itself acting as a motivation to drive the team forward.

“For me, it has been an unusual first year in women’s cricket – we’ve not had any games for the best part of nine months for various reasons, but the challenge ahead is motivation enough for me,” said Joyce, as he completed a one-year anniversary at the position. “We have a great young crop of players ambitious to make their mark on international cricket, and with a World Cup Qualifier approaching we have the tantalising prospect of potentially qualifying for a World Cup and the ICC Women’s Championship in 2021.”

With the recent government announcements on sport’s gradual return-to-play, Ireland hope to rectify lost game time with more domestic games and build out a lead-in programme to the Qualifiers to give our squad the best chance of success. “The future is bright if we can get our on-field and off-field plans to succeed, but there is a lot of hard work ahead,” he added.

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“We aren’t blind to the financial and resource constraints we are working with – but the willingness to push on is there from myself and the players, and Cricket Ireland has committed to growing the women’s game in the long-term. We’ll focus our attention on what we can control, and – with good planning and good fortune – will hopefully be back on the field playing good cricket and inspiring a new generation of girls and women across Ireland to play our great game.”

Joyce, the former cricketer himself made his international debut for England in 2006 before shifting his base to Ireland and retired from the game in 2018. Since then he had been working with the women’s, men’s and academy players as primarily a batting coach. “Unexpectedly the opportunity arose with the women’s head coach role. I had, of course, kept up with the progress of the women’s squad through my sisters and their involvement over the years, and didn’t hesitate when offered the role,” he said.

Leave aside the pandemic, times were challenging for Ireland too as far as the game is concerned. “The initial disappointment at not qualifying for the Women’s T20 World Cup quickly turned into intense planning and preparation for a big 2020. We had a tour to Thailand planned and we’re working on building a preparation programme in the lead-up to the World Cup Qualifier initially set for July. Unfortunately, like everyone involved in world sport, the pandemic changed everything.”

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“The recent confirmation that Kim Garth has accepted a two-year contract with Cricket Victoria and left the Irish set-up, for now, was a blow – there’s no denying that. We had hoped that she could have helped us through the Qualifier in July before moving to Australia, but the postponement of the tournament ended that idea,” rued the 41-year-old Joyce.

In a boost to the women’s game, eleven non-retainer contracts were introduced in an aim to professionalise the women’s game besides the six part-time contracts. The eleven are Eimear Richardson, Lara Maritz, Louise Little, Rebecca Stokell, Una Raymond-Hoey, Hannah Little, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray and Louise McCarthy.

“We are pleased that we can further invest in the senior women’s squad through these new benefits contracts. Given the nature and profile of our players, we needed to provide a greater level of support and service to the fitness, health, conditioning, and, most important, access to services that they need year-round. The medical and healthcare coverage alone will provide some peace-of-mind to the squad, and we hope to continue to build on these in subsequent years,” Richard Holdsworth, High-Performance Director for Cricket Ireland, said.