The last six months have been a busy time for Ciara. She spent most of the recent Australian summer playing and coaching in Brisbane, joined her national teammates for the Zimbabwe tour in February, and has now headed over to Northants in England to take up a short-term coaching role.
We recently sat down with Ciara before she headed to the UK.
“My first memory of playing cricket was at Rush Cricket Club. My dad had bought a Motor Garage in Rush and we had moved out there,” said Ciara. “My dad was a football man, but was introduced to cricket by his business partner. I suppose I just grew up with it and fell in love with the sport. Playing net cricket and pretty much living in the Cricket Club was how I spent all my childhood summers.”
Ciara has spent time playing for a number of iconic Dublin clubs Rush Cricket Club, Malahide Cricket Club, Pembroke Cricket Club and lastly The Hills Cricket Club.
“I moved from Rush to Malahide to try break into the Irish national team. At the time Rush was not playing senior cricket, but Malahide was - so I took the opportunity to make the move. The subsequent move from Malahide to Pembroke was largely as a result of where I was living, but the Hills move was for a coaching role.”
“Each club has been super for my career and offered me great experiences. But I have to say that Pembroke on Cup Final night is probably my favourite cricket place to be. I’ve been fortunate to have played in several finals through the years and play in front of some big crowds that made those games absolutely memorable.”
Apart from development opportunities in Dublin, it has perhaps been her opportunities in Australia that have given her career impetus and longevity.
“I’ve been to Australia to play and coach several times now - it’s a fantastic experience and I can’t recommend it enough,” she said.
“My most recent stint was this past summer, playing for Wynnum Manly District Cricket Club in Brisbane. Julia Price kindly put me in contact with their President Graham Mapri, and the relationship developed from there. Their facilities are fantastic, and the women’s section is a great work-in-progress.”
“At the end of my first season with the club we have now mapped out a progression plan and this will be my goal from August 2018 onwards when I return. Women’s cricket at the club is growing but, like most women’s cricket around the world, there is a lot of hard work to be put in behind the scenes. We have a lot of talented youngsters, and hopefully with the addition of a few new players, Wynnum Manly will fulfil its dream of being a Grade 1 women’s cricket team.”
“All up it has been a great experience - the Australians go about their cricket differently, but we all have the same passion for the game.”
Being a leg-spinner, there was little doubt about the first cricketing role model she named.
“Shane Warne for his leg spin genius. But I look up to so many male and female players with different attributes. Leadership, performance, attitude and passion are the things that make me work hard, and I feed off lots of different players for that, even my own teammates.”
When asked what motivated her to continue to pursue top-level cricket, Ciara described how this has evolved.
“I suppose it has changed over the years. At one stage I lived for my name to be on the team sheet, but now it’s for our team and for women’s cricket in Ireland to improve. This current squad is exciting to work with. Through new training techniques, and focussing on improved our fitness, the last while has really motivated me to go on, and if I can help this team or a player alogng the way, I will.”
Asked what were some of her most vivid memories in the national side, Ciara was quick to highlight a particular team performance.
“My favourite cricket memory has to be coming back into the squad in 2016 and working with the hugely talented group that qualified for the T20 World Cup in India. We won our qualifying tournament in Bangkok, and it was a very special tour - lifelong friends were made and the fight the Irish girls showed will always be with me.”
“Looking ahead, there are a lot of positive developments around cricket and women’s cricket in Ireland, and I’m hoping I can help continue that in some way. We have New Zealand and Bangladesh visiting Ireland this summer, and hopefully we can put some good performances together and show our talent to other teams. But probably our most important focus in coming months is thr road to qualification for the T20 World Cup in the West Indies later this year. The qualifying tournament in Holland will be huge, and we need to be prepared.”
And what’s the best piece of cricket advice anyone has given her?
“About leg spin, John Wills told me to think of my skill as an apprenticeship - put in the years, and hard work will pay off!”
What about her advice for a young girl considering cricket as a sport?
“Please have a go! It’s a fantastic game. It offers so much for all different types of people. From individual skills to team performances, using your physical, mental and tactical side - it’s truly addictive when you get hooked. There’s also a great social side to cricket - of which you don’t have to play regularly to still be involved in!”
Playing, travelling and meeting people the world over – cricket is certainly a sport that can provide a great life experience for girls and women alike.
If you want to find out more about getting involved in women’s cricket, you can contact one of the Provincial Unions today or find your nearest local club.