Women’s game has been there, done that, worn the T-shirt

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - CRICKET - GER­ARD SIGGINS

WHILE Ire­land’s men are cel­e­brat­ing their lon­gawaited Test de­but, it’s all old hat for Ire­land’s women crick­eters. Eigh­teen years ago, at Col­lege Park in the cen­tre of Dublin, Ire­land beat Pak­istan in a Test match by an in­nings and 54 runs, a re­sult you won’t see re­peated next week­end.

It was the only Test they ever played, as women’s cricket is al­most all lim­ited-overs th­ese days. Just seven Tests have been staged this decade, mostly be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia.

Women have been play­ing cricket here for well over 100 years, although codes of Vic­to­rian and Ed­war­dian dress meant the games were less than vig­or­ous.

There were even in­ter-county games, such as that be­tween Gal­way and King’s County (Of­faly) played in 1895, at which Lady Muriel Par­sons, daugh­ter of the as­tronomer Earl of Rosse, top-scored with 42.

In the late 1930s a Le­in­ster league was formed by a civil ser­vant called Isolda Howard, which led to in­ter­pros with Ul­ster and Ire­land games against vis­it­ing English sides. Sadly, the only true in­ter­na­tional, against New Zealand in 1966, was aban­doned with­out a ball bowled. The sport be­came dor­mant soon af­ter but was re­vived in the mid-1970s by an Amer­i­can aca­demic at TCD, Bar­bara Sch­midt, and Jenny Hal­l­i­day.

The game took off, es­pe­cially in Dublin, and Ire­land were soon wel­comed into the IWCC, play­ing in World Cups long be­fore the men. Play­ers such as Mary Pat Moore, Su­san Bray and Miriam Grealey won ad­mir­ers but re­sults were hard to come by as other coun­tries grew in­creas­ingly pro­fes­sional, although Ire­land es­tab­lished them­selves as sec­ond only to Eng­land in Europe.

In re­cent years, Ire­land have re­lied on highly-ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers such as Clare Shilling­ton, Iso­bel Joyce, Ce­cilia Joyce and Ciara Met­calfe, who all made their de­buts be­tween 1997 and 2001. Some tal­ented young­sters have been added to the mix, and wins have been recorded over Pak­istan, Zim­babwe, Bangladesh and South Africa un­der full-time head coach Aaron Hamil­ton.

Stan­dards have risen and two play­ers — Iso­bel Joyce and Kim Garth — have spent the last two win­ters play­ing in the Big Bash in Aus­tralia, with Garth col­lect­ing two win­ner’s medals with the Sydney Six­ers.

The sport has grown out­side Dublin, and sev­eral women from the North now play in the Toy­ota Su­per 3s se­ries which is one step be­low in­ter­na­tional sta­tus. This sum­mer Ire­land host New Zealand and Bangladesh, with the lat­ter op­po­nents form­ing part of a T20 dou­ble bill with Ire­land men’s game against In­dia in Malahide. That June 29 fix­ture will give cap­tain Laura De­lany’s team a chance to show their skills in front of a huge au­di­ence.

Gaby Lewis of the Ire­land Women’s team

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