Cricket Ireland today announced a €30,000 injection of funding - and launched a new structure - for junior and youth cricket in Ireland that aims to increase participation and enjoyment of the sport for children across the 32 counties.
Cricket is the world’s second most popular sport - and the number one sport for 20 per cent of the world’s population - however it is considered an ‘emerging’ sport here in Ireland.
“Cricket has so much to offer kids and families,” said Elaine Nolan, Participation Director for Cricket Ireland.
“It is a non-contact sport, and one which girls and boys can play together in the early years. The skills learnt through cricket benefit kids in all aspects of life – hand-eye coordination, self-confidence, socialisation and team skills can be achieved through a healthy outdoors activity.”
“In 2007 we had around 14,500 people across Ireland playing, coaching or administering cricket. Today that number is closer to 52,000. While these numbers are encouraging, we acknowledge the need to make the sport more accessible and attractive for kids to play here on this island.”
The Cricket Ireland Strategic Plan 2016-2020 outlines many lofty ambitions for the sport in Ireland, including Full Membership of the International Cricket Council and achieving Test Match status (only 12 nations out of 105 cricket-playing nations have been awarded this honour). In June 2017 Full Membership of the ICC was indeed achieved, so the next priority was to undertake a complete review of the grassroots level of the sport.
“We want more people playing cricket, more players joining clubs, and more schools offering cricket. Above all, we want cricket to be more than a one-off experience for kids,” said Ms Nolan.
“Today we are launching a new structure for junior and youth cricket in Ireland that aims to provide more young cricketers with exciting, challenging, enjoyable cricket experiences.”
“The lifeblood of our sport is the 118 clubs operating across this island, but the future success and growth of these clubs means we need to attract and retain kids in the sport.”
“We have designed the new structures around best practice programmes and learnings from top cricket nations like New Zealand, Australia and England. However, we also needed to ensure what we developed reflected where cricket is at as a sport within the Irish context.”
The new structure will ensure that, for the first time, a consistent approach is being taken to junior and youth playing conditions and rule modifications across the country. The structure, and accompanying guidelines, places the players experience front-and-centre by simplifying rules and removing as many barriers as possible to ensure kids enjoy the game first-and-foremost.
Talent identification is retained as an area of interest to Cricket Ireland, but the new structure aims to provide all players with their own pathway in the sport where those who love the game will continue to play the levels that suit them.
For the representative side, Cricket Ireland has revised the Inter-Provincial boys competitions at Under-15s and Under-17s levels and released the fixtures for the coming season.
“The biggest change to junior representative cricket in 2018 is the regionalisation of investment at Under-11 and Under-13 levels. Instead of Cricket Ireland directly investing in the Inter-Provincial Competitions for these age groups, our investment now will be regional versions of these competitions for both girls and boys.” said Ms Nolan.
“The change will hopefully ensure all kids can benefit from outstanding coaching and access to these coaches. We want to ensure that many young people are involved, and are retained, in the regional programmes and within club cricket for years to come.”
“With regards to the Youth Boys Inter-Provincials, this funding injection has helped us make the Under-15 & Under-17 competitions week-long tournaments, which will give players the opportunity to play both 50-over and T20 cricket formats.”
“By implementing these structural changes to junior and youth cricket, we believe we can create a larger pool of boys and girls giving cricket a go. This should lead to greater club involvement, where kids will enjoy being part of a sporting community that is diverse and supportive.”
Cricket Ireland is pleased to announce that Hanley Energy – main sponsor of the Ireland Women’s team and the domestic Inter-Provincial Series – has agreed to extend its support to junior cricket:
“Cricket in Ireland has achieved much in recent years, however, we all recognise the need to plan for the future in order to sustain this success. Hanley Energy is therefore, delighted to deepen its support for cricket in Ireland through sponsoring the Junior Inter-Pro’s Series. This series will feature our best up-and-coming talent and will showcase why the future is very bright, indeed for Irish Cricket.” said Clive Gilmore, CEO and Co-Founder of Hanley Energy.