Ir­ish cricket plans to raise bar af­ter mem­o­rable year

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - GOLF / CRICKET - GER SIGGINS

THE Ire­land squad took a break on Fri­day night, al­though their first game in the World Twenty20 in Guyana is just seven days away. The ex­cuse was to toast their cap­tain, Laura De­lany, who was named Fe­male Player of the Year at the Cricket Ire­land awards in Dublin.

“I’m de­lighted to re­ceive this hon­our and sorry I can’t be there to en­joy the night,” she said in a video link.

Una Ray­mond-Hoey is not on the trip, but will be on many more in the fu­ture. She col­lected the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent

Aen­gus Fan­ning Emerg­ing Player award.

Tim Murtagh was a pop­u­lar choice as Male Player of the Year, the Mid­dle­sex man ex­press­ing de­light at win­ning in such a land­mark sea­son. “To be the one who bowled Ire­land’s first ball in Test cricket was hum­bling, a lit­tle bit scary. Es­pe­cially when it took more than five min­utes to bowl the sec­ond ball,” he re­called.

The cer­e­mony was the first since Ire­land be­gan play­ing Tests, a fact noted by chief ex­ec­u­tive War­ren Deu­trom in his an­nual state-of-the-cricket-union speech. He pointed out Cricket Ire­land’s high points: “The se­nior women qual­i­fy­ing for the World T20; stag­ing two sell­out T20s against In­dia un­der glo­ri­ous skies; host­ing an ICC con­fer­ence for the first time; open­ing our new high-per­for­mance cen­tre; wel­com­ing our first fe­male pres­i­dent; se­cur­ing a hun­dred-plus men’s in­ter­na­tional fix­tures over the next four years; even host­ing rock-and-roll roy­alty at the Test match.

“All are sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones; most are firsts for us. Per­haps in terms of mak­ing an im­pact on the Ir­ish sport­ing land­scape, maybe only hockey and rugby could boast a big­ger foot­print this year. For fans of Ir­ish cricket, these are ex­cit­ing times — more games, greater ex­po­sure for our in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic struc­tures, and the emer­gence of new and ex­cit­ing young tal­ent.

“For many Ir­ish cricket fans, and the wider com­mu­nity out­side the im­me­di­ate cricket bub­ble, they would prob­a­bly mark this down as a very good year, at least off the pitch. I will, how­ever, pose a sim­ple ques­tion for all the peo­ple in this room: af­ter the trans­for­ma­tional year that was 2017, how do we now feel 12 months down the road af­ter our first year in big school? Do we feel that same sense of ela­tion?

“Have we de­liv­ered a year of suc­cess or sim­ply ful­filled what would be or­di­nar­ily ex­pected of a Full Mem­ber na­tion? Or, for some peo­ple, is what hap­pens off the pitch largely ir­rel­e­vant un­til re­sults for our se­nior men im­prove on it? What we do know, as an or­gan­i­sa­tion, is that we are in a big­ger spot­light, ex­pec­ta­tions are high, and the level of scru­tiny, de­bate and cri­tique are even higher.

“But that is to be ex­pected — that we are be­ing held to a higher stan­dard by be­ing a Full Mem­ber is no sur­prise. With growth comes grow­ing pains, and with change comes un­cer­tainty. Per­haps it is time to stop and take a breath, to con­sol­i­date where we are — not look too soon to that next bar­rier to breach, or moun­tain to climb. Per­haps we need to re-set our ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Deu­trom also said his pri­or­i­ties were ad­dress­ing the fa­cil­i­ties deficit and help­ing the provin­cial unions to grow into busi­nesses.

The CEO has been un­der fire in re­cent days over a pro­posal to hive off the em­ploy­ment of six de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cers to the prov­inces. He said the con­sul­ta­tion process had be­gun, but added: “Cricket Ire­land’s com­mit­ment to fund­ing de­vel­op­ment is un­wa­ver­ing and the grass­roots of our game re­mains a top pri­or­ity for the or­gan­i­sa­tion — there will be no re­duc­tion of fund­ing for de­vel­op­ment/par­tic­i­pa­tion ac­tiv­i­ties now and in the fore­see­able fu­ture.”

Deu­trom went on to say that the unions need to be­come a ful­crum, say­ing: “Our job is to sup­port them so that they, in turn, sup­port our clubs and pro­vide our pipeline of fu­ture in­ter­na­tion­als.”

The speech didn’t men­tion Mun­ster, who have played in the T20 in­ter­pros since 2017 but who could be omit­ted for 2019 if a con­tro­ver­sial high-per­for­mance com­mit­tee rec­om­men­da­tion to the board is ac­cepted.

Deu­trom also sig­nalled a grow­ing com­mit­ment to women’s cricket, where its se­nior side have a higher world rank­ing than Ire­land’s men. The or­gan­i­sa­tion had a fe­male pres­i­dent for the first time this year, and he hailed Aideen Rice as a trail­blazer for the next gen­er­a­tion of fe­male lead­ers in Ir­ish cricket.

He also looked for­ward to 2019, when Eng­land will visit Malahide for an ODI and host Ire­land at Lord’s and looked back to the tea in­ter­val at the Test when al­most 100 for­mer in­ter­na­tion­als were in­tro­duced to the crowd.

“Sev­enty-year-olds rubbed shoul­ders with 30-year-olds; men with women; north and south; na­tive and for­eign; friends and a few ri­vals — but all united by their love and ded­i­ca­tion to Ir­ish cricket, most smil­ing, a few tear­ful — but ev­ery­one proud as hell. I’ll never for­get it.”

The awards recog­nised ex­cel­lence and achieve­ment this year, with Tec­tor broth­ers Tim (Youth) and Harry (Academy) pick­ing up player awards, and hus­band and wife John An­der­son and Iso­bel Joyce each win­ning the re­spec­tive club player awards.

War­ingstown were named club of the year, but there was a spe­cial award to Adamstown, which has grown quickly in nine years to 13 teams and plays an im­por­tant role in its west Dublin com­mu­nity.

The Cricket Writ­ers in­ducted Garfield Har­ri­son to the Hall of Fame, while the ac­knowl­edge­ment of Mur­ray Power’s out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion was a pop­u­lar award.

Tim Murtagh with his Men’s In­ter­na­tional Player of the Year award at the Cricket Ire­land awards on Fri­day night; and, above right, Una Ray­mond-Hoey is pre­sented with her Aen­gus Fan­ning Emerg­ing Player award by Sun­day In­de­pen­dent sports ed­i­tor John Greene. Pho­tos: Seb Daly

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