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'It feels a bit surreal': Landmark day for Irish women's cricket

Six players will receive part-time professional contracts thanks to the support of Sport Ireland.

CRICKET IRELAND HAS today announced the recipients of six part-time professional contracts for members of the senior women’s national team, in what is a landmark step forward for the game’s development.

After the Cricket Ireland board endorsed the provision of women’s senior playing contracts back in December, Laura Delany, Kim Garth, Mary Waldron, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis and Celeste Raack have become the first professionally-contracted players in the national set-up.

Mary Waldron, Celeste Raack, Richard Holdsworth and Shauna Kavanagh Mary Waldron, Celeste Raack, Cricket Ireland performance director Richard Holdsworth and Shauna Kavanagh. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The announcement was made at an event at the Sport Ireland Institute in Abbotstown on Tuesday, while Cricket Ireland also confirmed the women’s international schedule for 2019.

“Today marks a significant landmark in our women’s game — we’re not just here to launch the new international season, but to announce six part-time player contracts — the first-ever in cricket in this country, and making cricket one of very few team sports in Ireland to have professionally-contracted women players,” Cricket Ireland performance director, Richard Holdsworth, said. 

Previously a completely amateur set-up, the introduction of initial part-time contracts for six players is a major fillip for Aaron Hamilton’s team as they look to make further strides on the world stage. 

Following a disappointing World Twenty20 campaign in the Caribbean at the end of last year, the Ireland women’s programme will now revolve around qualifying for the ICC Women’s Championship in 2021, which would guarantee the team a regular diet of international fixtures over a three-year period. 

“These contracts put in place the foundation blocks that will help us as a cricket nation to achieve our goal,” Holdsworth added.

In addition to nine home fixtures this summer, as well as a yet to be confirmed quadrangular tournament in August, Ireland are in T20 World Cup qualifying action in Scotland in September.

Key to Ireland’s chances of closing the gap on other Full Member nations is increased contact and training time as a squad, with the introduction of part-time contracts, supported by Sport Ireland, a major boost in that regard. 

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“We hope the contracts will improve and expand year-on-year with Sport Ireland’s support,” added Holdsworth.

Richard Holdsworth Holdsworth speaking at today's event in Abbotstown. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Among those now contracted to Cricket Ireland are captain Delany, all-rounder Garth, who has enjoyed success in the Australian Big Bash with the Sydney Sixers, and highly-rated teenager Lewis.  

“I’m very excited and delighted to have been included in the small pool of players selected for a contract as Cricket Ireland take a big step forward in the women’s game,” Delaney said.

“Personally, there are certain aspects of my game that I’ve have been trying to develop further. Hopefully, this will allow me to spend more time working and focusing on my game whilst not having to commit to a full-time job.”

Speaking at this morning’s launch event, Kavanagh admitted “it feels a bit surreal”, while adding “I never thought we would see even semi-professionalism in my time with Irish Cricket.”

Ireland will open their season against West Indies women in the first of three Twenty20 internationals on 26 May, before a 50-over and T20 series against Zimbabwe in July, with head coach Hamilton today announcing his first squad of the summer.

Ireland women (v West Indies): Laura Delany (captain), Kim Garth, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Lara Maritz, Naomi Matthews, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Una Raymond-Hoey, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron. 

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