'We’re not naive about the scale of the challenge': Ireland ready for World Cup opener

Ireland begin their Women’s World Twenty20 campaign on Sunday.

THERE IS NO hiding place on the biggest stage. Ireland are fully aware of the size of the challenge facing them as they begin their Women’s World Twenty20 campaign against three-time champions, and world number-one, Australia on Sunday.

Two years ago, Aaron Hamilton’s side were humbled, barely throwing a punch en route to four pool defeats and things aren’t any easier this time around; the presence of the Aussies, second-ranked New Zealand, Pakistan and India in Group B makes this a daunting task.  

Team Celebrate Ireland celebrate a wicket in their warm-up game against Sri Lanka. ICC / Cricket Ireland ICC / Cricket Ireland / Cricket Ireland

The prospect of another winless campaign — after failing to register a point in the 2014 and 2016 editions of this tournament — is entirely possible, but this squad, two years down the line in their development, appear to have a different mindset.

There is a spring in their step after an encouraging and confidence-building defeat of Sri Lanka in their final warm-up game on Wednesday, but they will need to hit another gear in Guyana on Sunday.

“The win against Sri Lanka could not have come at a better time for us,” captain Laura Delaney says. “To finish our warm up games with such a convincing win against the team ranked seventh in the world — three spots ahead of us — has instilled a lot of confidence in the group.

“Whilst the team are in great spirits, we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves as we have some very tough games ahead. We have our own targets set for each game and all I can ask is that every player plays with the freedom and confidence previously displayed.”

Ireland qualified for this tournament for the third time after finishing runner-up in the qualifying competition during the summer, but Hamilton’s side find it difficult to bridge the gulf in class against the top nations.

While their squad can count on the experience of players such as Clare Shillington, the Joyce twins, Isobel and Cecelia, and Mary Waldron, both the middle and lower order are often exposed if those aforementioned names don’t fire.

There is some exciting young talent within the squad and Hamilton will hope someone like Gaby Lewis can truly fulfil her undoubted potential on the world stage, while teenage bowler Lara Maritz is another to keep an eye on having taken three wickets against Sri Lanka.

Laura Delany Ireland captain Laura Delaney. ICC / Cricket Ireland ICC / Cricket Ireland / Cricket Ireland

All that being said, Ireland are under no illusions of the sheer scale of the challenge, starting on Sunday against the Southern Stars, who boast a formidable line-up and are favourites to lift a record fourth title this month.

“For the squad, the preparation and planning has stopped, and now our focus is fully on Australia,” Hamilton added.

“The two warm-up games gave us great opportunities to acclimatise in match conditions, and the Sri Lanka result showed we are beginning to bring together all elements of our game. Now it is all about executing those team and individual plans.”

The Australian, who has been at the helm since 2015, continued: “When it comes to big tournaments against big teams, it is all about not being overwhelmed by the occasion and focussing on executing our processes.

“We’re not naive about the scale of the challenge ahead, but we have to go into these games with the self-belief they we belong here on the world stage and play to the best of our abilities.” 

Ireland Women’s World Twenty20 fixtures:

[All games start at 8pm Irish time, live on Sky Sports] 

  • 11 November: Australia v Ireland, Guyana 
  • 13 November: Pakistan v Ireland, Guyana 
  • 15 November: India v Ireland, Guyana
  • 17 November: New Zealand v Ireland, Guyana

Ireland squad: 

Laura Delany (c), Kim Garth, Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Shauna Kavanagh, Amy Kenealy, Gaby Lewis, Lara Maritz, Ciara Metcalfe, Lucy O’Reilly, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Clare Shillington, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron.

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