Cricket Ireland has unveiled a detailed strategy for their women’s squad, which includes a €1.5 million investment, 20 player contracts for the first time, head coach Ed Joyce’s contract renewal, and home series against South Africa, Pakistan, and Australia.
Seven players have been handed international contracts: Laura Delany, Shauna Kavanagh, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, and Mary Waldron. Ava Canning, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Jane Maguire, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, and Rebecca Stokell are among the nine women who have been offered part-time (education) employment.
The contracts will begin in March 2022, and the players will be Ireland’s first full-time female cricketers. They are just the second women’s national team in Ireland to get full-time, year-round playing contracts, following the Rugby team.
Their annual investment in women’s cricket has more than tripled between 2016-19 when it was € 500,000. Player contracts and match fees, coaching and support staff wages, cost of a home and away fixture equipment, venue hire, nutrition and lifestyle management, talent pathway, and Academy and Super Series expenditures will all benefit from the increased funding.
Meanwhile, Joyce’s contract has been extended for another three years, allowing him to work more closely with the women’s squad. In 2019, he took over as coach for the first time.
In June, Ireland will host South Africa for three ODIs and three T20Is, followed by a T20I tri-series between Pakistan and Australia in preparation for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
“As a squad, we are truly excited and thankful for this opportunity – it is something that many of us never would have dreamed of when we started out playing the sport we love,” captain Laura Delany said. “While thankful, though, we also acknowledge the hard work, sacrifice and commitment shown by the players to achieve the honour of representing our country at the highest levels.”
“To the squad, I say simply, enjoy it. Enjoy this opportunity – be thankful, but know that you’ve earned the right to stand where you are. This is Day One of what I hope is an incredible journey we will take together – it may get tough at times, it may be challenging, but it should be an experience like no other. To travel the world playing cricket for Ireland – there’s no better feeling.”
According to a board announcement, the women’s squad now has a solid core of full-time coaching and support staff devoted to the senior side. Gary Wilson and Ryan Eagleson, the recently named high-performance specialist coaches for Ireland’s men’s team, will give periodic help to the women’s programme as part of their positions.
“Coming off the back of the team’s performance at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in 2018, we – as an organisation – committed ourselves to a journey to professionalise women’s cricket,” Warren Deutrom, chief executive of Cricket Ireland, said.
“It was not only a good thing to do, it was the right thing to do. Women’s cricket’s time has come around the world – we’ve seen the incredible growth and professionalisation of the women’s game across several major nations like Australia, England and India and the strong focus on female cricket in the new ICC strategy. It’s now Ireland’s turn.”
Part-time contracts are meant to accommodate athletes who are enrolled full-time in a school or are pursuing tertiary education. These contracts provide players with a substantial living stipend, allowing them to focus on their cricket rather than looking for work throughout their school years. During the summer vacations, the majority of these athletes will be working full-time.
Non-retainer contracts – awarded to Rachel Delaney, Sarah Forbes, Hannah Little, and Kate McEvoy – provide players with a 12-month medical and healthcare insurance plan, sports science support (strength and conditioning, psychology, performance analysis, nutrition and lifestyle management), specialist coaching support, and full access to the Sport Ireland Institute for ROI-based players.