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"The Women's Championship must be our goal" - Cricket Ireland

"The Women's Championship must be our goal" - Cricket Ireland
©Cricket Ireland

In a big year for women’s cricket in Ireland, Cricket Ireland’s Performance Director Richard Holdsworth outlined the clear and unambiguous aim for the sport over the next 18 months – entry into the ICC Women’s Championship. 

In recent years there have been a number of initiatives to build the women’s game, from the establishment of the Shapoorji Pallonji Cricket Ireland Academy in 2014, creation of the women’s Toyota Super 3s in 2015, driving an overseas scholarship scheme for female players, introducing the first-ever contracts for women and creation of the Cricket Ireland High Performance Centre.

With Ireland’s men ensconced in the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP), Holdsworth has now firmly turned to the task of getting Ireland Women into the top-tier competition of women’s cricket, the Women’s Championship - roughly speaking, the women’s equivalent of the men’s FTP. 

He said:

“The Women’s Championship must be our goal. The pathway we created with the men’s international side is one we hope to emulate with the women. Increased professionalism, provision of greater support staff, contracts, development opportunities, high-quality international matches and – we believe – creation of a sustainable and competitive women’s international team at the top table of the sport.”

“However, we are not shying away from the reality that we have a lot of work to do. Being internationally competitive is more than just plunging resources into the international squad. We know that growing the playing pool and increasing female participation at all levels of our sport. To this end, we are at an advanced stage of creating a Girls and Women’s Cricket Strategy – a plan that will be embedded as a key plank of the organisation’s next Strategic Plan.”

“We are also committed to continuous learning and acknowledging where we need to change or tweak our processes. With the recent changes in our senior women’s coaching set-up, we are beginning to put in place a number of initiatives that have been identified following last year’s World Cup. These changes are aimed at laying some more of the groundwork for our aspiration to reach the Women’s Championship.”

After the 2021 Women’s ODI World Cup, the ICC have committed to expanding the Women’s Championship from eight to ten teams. As Ireland is ranked 10th, it is important that the Ireland Women’s squad maintain – at a minimum – their ranking over the coming 18 months to gain entry to the Championship. But, as Holdsworth explains, gaining entry is not an end in itself, but the beginning of a new and challenging chapter: 

“At the moment we play a handful of international fixtures each year, with a squad that until this year was exclusively made up of amateur players. Entry to the Women’s Championship will open doors to regular, high-quality international fixtures – it will also increase significantly our ability to qualify for both 50-over and T20 World Cups. It will literally be a game-changer for the sport. For our women, the dream of playing for their country, being professional sportspeople and raising the profile of Irish women’s cricket both here and around the world is within reach. That is why the next 18 months is so crucial.” 

As part of further changes to the coaching and performance set up, Performance Coach and former international cricketer Andrew Poynter’s role within Cricket Ireland will change slightly to focus largely on supporting the under-age talent pathway and coach education programme within the national governing body. In undertaking this work, he will also continue as Head Coach of the Scorchers in the Toyota Super 3s. 

Holdsworth said:

"Andrew has an enthusiasm for coaching and developed a skill-set that we believe can benefit our talent pathway. He is finishing his duties with the senior international squad, and will focus on coaching the under-15s boys and girls squads, the under-19s girls squad, and will work within the Shapoorji Pallonji Cricket Ireland Women’s Academy set-up.” 

“There is no secret that both the men’s and women’s senior sides are going through a period of transition, and we are working behind-the-scenes to strengthen the identification and development of young players who are keen to progress their cricket careers. Andrew will play an important role in this process.”

“Another area we are developing as a national governing body is coach education – by creating a pool of accredited cricket coaches around Ireland that can help clubs on raising the quality and standards of coaching under a national structure. This is another area that Andrew has much to offer, and he will be supporting the roll-out of the coach education and development strategy, under the leadership of Coach Development Manager, Brett Reid.”

Andrew Poynter said: 

"I enjoyed my time working as Performance Coach in the international women’s coaching structure, and am now looking forward to focusing on the emerging young talent coming through the boys and girls under-age representative squads." 

"I am really looking forward to progressing my coaching career with an important group of young players who will hopefully become the backbone of future senior men’s and women’s squads."

"The opportunity to also work within the coach education area is an interest I have developed, and hope that I can share my knowledge and experiences with a new generation of cricket coaches across Ireland."

© Cricket World 2019