Cricket Ireland has given out its first ever female professional part-time contracts, with six players receiving the improved terms.
An event was held on 7 May at the Sport Ireland Institute in which the recipients of the contracts were announced, with Laura Delany, Kim Garth, Mary Waldron, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis and Celeste Raack making up the six players chosen.
The contracts had been announced shortly after the Women's World T20 in late 2018, but it had not been revealed until now who would receive them. Ireland captain Delany, who has 87 international caps, spoke of her delight upon hearing the news.
"I’m very excited and delighted to have been included in the small pool of players selected for a contract as Cricket Ireland take a big step forward in the women’s game," she said. "Personally, there are certain aspects of my game that I’ve have been trying to develop further. Hopefully this will allow me to spend more time working and focusing on my game whilst not having to commit to a full-time job.
“From a captaincy point of view, this means I will have more contact time with players which should have a positive impact on our development as a group.
"It’s great to see Cricket Ireland being one of the sport bodies leading the way for other female sports in Ireland. Whilst the contracts are part-time it does allow female cricketers to concentrate a bit more on their game but we still have a way to go in order to catch up with our male counterparts.”
35-year old wicket-keeper Waldron echoed Delany's sentiments. "I think this is a huge statement from Cricket Ireland," she said.
"It shows they are taking women’s cricket seriously and hopefully it’s puts some pressure on more dominant sports in Ireland to start backing their women and giving them the chance to progress in their sport also."
Ireland Women have also named a 13-strong squad for their upcoming home T20I series against West Indies, with several new faces appearing following the retirement of a number of senior players.
The squad features six players who are uncapped in the format, as Ireland look to younger heads to fill the voids left by veterans Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Ciara Metcalfe and Clare Shillington, who all called time on their international careers following the ICC Women's World T20.
Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Naomi Matthews, Leah Paul, Una Raymond-Hoey and Rebecca Stokell could all be in line to make their T20I debuts.
West Indies Women are currently at No.4 in the ICC MRF Tyres rankings for T20Is, while Ireland are tenth. Ireland head coach Aaron Hamilton spoke of a new era for the side upon the announcement of the squad. "2019 is both an exciting year for women’s cricket, and – in a sense – the beginning of a new journey for the international squad," he said.
"At the back end of 2018 we lost around 600-caps worth of experience with the retirement of four senior players, and with Lucy O’Reilly taking a break from the game, this has opened up opportunities for younger players to step up and take their chance on the international stage. Combined with the new player contracts, the international season will certainly take on a sense of the new. The players have trained hard over the winter months, and it will be good to get out on the field and taking on one of the world’s top teams here in Ireland."
Following the three-match series against the West Indies, Ireland will then host Zimbabwe Women for three ODIs and three T20Is before the Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier in Scotland which begins in August.
Squad: Laura Delany (Captain), Kim Garth, Shauna Kavanagh, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Sophie MacMahon, Lara Maritz, Naomi Matthews, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Una Raymond-Hoey, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron
Fixtures v West Indies:
1st T20I, 26 May, YMCA Cricket Club
2nd T20I, 28 May, Pembroke Cricket Club
3rd T20I, 29 May, Pembroke Cricket Club
Fixtures v Zimbabwe:
1st ODI, 3rd July, Oak Hill
2nd ODI, 5th July, Oak Hill
3rd ODI, 7th July, Oak Hill
1st T20I, 10th July, Stormont
2nd T20I, 12th July, Bready CC
3rd T20I, 14th July, Bready CC
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