Ireland celebrate a wicket. © Cricket Ireland

Following the disappointment of having missed out on a T20 World Cup berth for the first time since the tournament expanded to 10 teams, Ireland are back to business after a couple of months of recuperation. Cricket Ireland on Wednesday (December 4), announced their senior performance and women’s academy squads for the upcoming season. While the performance squad consists of players who have come to form the nucleus of the national team, the Academy squad has a group of emerging players who have been part of the pathway program in recent times.

Lucy O’Reilly, the diminutive medium pacer, remains absent from the group having announced that she wanted to take a break from the game after the side’s World T20 campaign in the Caribbean last year.

Despite the team’s underwhelming performances in Scotland, Ed Joyce, Ireland’s head coach, is keen to move forward and has his sights firmly fixed on the team’s next been assignment— a one-day World Cup qualifier in Sri Lanka next year.

With winter having set in at home, many of the Ireland players are off plying their trade in Australia or New Zealand. Kim Garth, the allrounder, is part of the Perth Scorchers squad in the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, while off-spinner Eimear Richardson is off playing domestic cricket in New Zealand.

“We’re heading into another big year for women’s cricket in Ireland, with a 50-over world cup qualifying campaign mid-year to build towards,” Joyce said. “While we’re in the off-season domestically, it has been a busy winter for many of the players, with a number of the senior squad playing club cricket in Australia, while others have been undertaking indoor skills sessions, as well as fitness and nutrition programs.”

Like any semi-professional setup, one of Ireland’s major challenges through the years has been keeping players in the system and helping them juggle both school/ university/ work commitments with cricket. While the likes of Laura Delany, Mary Waldron, Celeste Raack, Kim Garth, Gaby Lewis and Shauna Kavanagh have been given part-time contracts, the larger part of the squad is unable to dedicate as much time on the improvement of their skills. Joyce however, lauded the group’s commitment, adding that he believes the young team is headed in the right direction.

“One of our challenges is working with a wide number of players who are balancing their training and playing schedules with work or studies. While we are fortunate to get plenty of contact hours with  the six contracted players, the amount of time and commitment the women put into their preparation and training programmes is an aspect of being a cricketer at this level that the public often under-appreciate,” he explained. “What I have seen to date, however, is a dedicated young squad that is keen to learn and progress. That is exciting for the future and will hopefully be rewarded by some good performances over the next 12 months.”

Joyce, who was involved in the selection process of these squads for the first time, said there were a few “tough decisions” that had to be made. While the performance squad largely selected itself, the Academy squad was chosen with one eye on the Under-19 World Cup in two years time. Although most of the candidates are those players who are close to national selection, a small group of junior players have been included in order to gain exposure to high level training before the big event.

Squads:

Senior Performance squad: Kim Garth, Gaby Lewis, Celeste Raack, Mary Waldron, Laura Delany, Shauna Kavanagh, Eimear Richardson, Lara Maritz, Louise Little, Rebecca Stokell, Una Raymond-Hoey, Hannah Little, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray

Women’s Academy squad: Amy Hunter, Anna Kerrison], Rachel Delaney, Jane Maguire, Caoimhe McCann, Naomi Matthews, Alana Dalzell, Georgina Dempsey, Zara Craig, Rebecca Gough, Louise McCarthy, Jennifer Hanna

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