This March, the Irish Ladies cricket team will head to India for the World T20 Tournament, the most important global Twenty20 cricket competition, with a number of Trinity alumni on board. In the final of the T20 qualifying tournament, Ireland overcame Bangladesh in a thrilling clash to give themselves a great deal of confidence before they travel to India to take on the best teams in world cricket.
The Irish team had already booked their plane tickets when they beat a strong Scottish side by 9 wickets in the semi-final as the top-two teams in the qualifying tournament progress to the World T20. But this match was still one of great importance as it demonstrated that Ireland can compete with, and win against, some of the best teams in the world. They travel to India to compete with nine other teams, including Bangladesh, knowing that the very least they should expect is to be competitive.
The match itself was a thrilling one with 16 year old Lucy O’Reilly’s single on the final ball of the game winning it for the Irish. To add to the drama, thunder and lightning along with sporadic rainfall threatened to derail the final, but the match continued and at the end, the Irish players came streaming onto the pitch, a sign of how much the victory meant to them.
Bangladesh decided to bat first with Sultana hitting a match high 41 as they raced out to an impressive score but Ireland responded well with Metcalfe taking 3 wickets. Ireland also batted well with former Trinity student Cecelia Joyce hitting 32. Joyce, who received a pink in 2006, is the twin sister of captain Isobel and will head to the World T20 with other alumni Jennifer Gray, Shauna Kavanagh and Amy Kenealy.
Playing cricket in College
Joyce spoke to Trinity News about her time memories playing cricket in Trinity. Her first international test was actually played in College Park when she was a 17 year old secondary school student. In her first year of college, her skills were at such a level that she was made team captain: “I suppose even though I was a fresher, I was still the person with the most experience which is why I took on the captaincy.” Her contributions to the team were immediate as they “secured promotion from the second division to the first division.”
She describes how playing in college helped her overall game:“I am very proud to have played for Trinity as the extra responsibility adds to the experience of sport and helps you grow as a player.“ The extra playing time certainly helped Joyce who played for Trinity at the start of the season and her “regular club Merrion for the rest of the season”. While the season in college was very short, Joyce wryly proclaimed the benefits of cricket in Trinity as “a good distraction from study in exam time”.
These memories of days spent at the cricket pitch, which arrived with Summer, are recalled fondly by Joyce. “It has always been a special place for me to play.” She remembers the crowds who would congregate on the pitch if the sun made an appearance, joking that “On a sunny day in front of the pav our most difficult task was often in trying to get all the students off the field.” One “awkward but hilarious” moment for Joyce was when a streaker stole a stump (which is part of a wicket). She describes how this “happened quite a bit”, however this time the team had to chase the streaker even though they “really didn’t want to” as they needed the sump to continue the match.
Popularity of Cricket in Ireland
Joyce, now a solicitor, is one of only three Irish players with over one hundred caps, including her sister Isobel. They both play a crucial part in the Irish side which has been nominated for RTE sports team of the year, yet they haven’t received an enormous amount of media attention. While the Men’s team have enjoyed brief surges in popularity, in particular after the 2007 and 2011 world cups where they beat Pakistan and England respectively, the women’s team has never received the same spotlight. This could be attributed to lack of success as the women’s team have not qualified for the World cup since 2005, although they have qualified for the world T20 two times in a row now, not an achievement to be sneezed at. Hopefully this World T20 championship will give the women’s team some more coverage.
It isn’t exactly a secret that Cricket doesn’t enjoy the same widespread appeal as GAA, soccer or rugby and even the most optimistic advocates of the sport would not predict that it will ever approach these sports in popularity, but there is room for cricket to grow. With the success of the men’s team in recent world cups and the rise of the women’s team over the last few years, cricket events such as the Cricket World Cup are beginning to break into mainstream sporting culture. The head of Cricket Ireland has declared that the ambition of the Irish men’s team is to achieve Test status, the highest international cricket standard, by 2020. This is to prevent players leaving Ireland for England in order to get the chance to play Test-cricket. Achieving Test status would be crucial for the growth of cricket.
Despite lacking Test-status, Cricket in Ireland has come a long way since the days when it was viewed as a “garrison game”. Public perception is certainly trending upwards with only positive news such as the success of the women’s national team. But many people remain unfamiliar with the sport. In College, where many students walk past the pitch everyday and most of us have seen a cricket match or two from the steps of The Pav, the sport is rarely if ever discussed. Maybe cricket will forever be, at least in Ireland, a minor sport which occasionally attracts the public’s interest. However, with recent, consistent success, it’s difficult to imagine Irish cricket being anything other than more popular in 10 years time than it is currently.