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