Sophie MacMahon relishing prospect of South African challenge
Irish all-rounder Sophie MacMahon has returned from injury and is relishing the prospect of opening the international summer against South Africa tomorrow at Pembroke Cricket Club.
The 25 year-old knows that the South Africans will be a formidable challenge, as they showed during the recent ICC Women’s World Cup in New Zealand where they made it to the semi-finals before bowing out to England, but she remains optimistic of the Irish side’s chances and has called upon the local fans to come out to support the home side:
“It's very exciting that South Africa are coming to play us at home, they showed some really good form in the recent ICC Women’s World Cup. Hopefully, we can get a good crowd in supporting us - to have our friends and family there will be really nice.”
The Leinster Cricket Club player made her international debut in 2017, but feels she’s now in a place where she is starting to feel comfortable with all that international cricket entails:
“Compared to 2017 I feel like I'm a lot more prepared now when I go out on the pitch. Back when I made my debut we had a long tour to South Africa, and I remember not knowing any of the players I was playing against. I don't really remember too much about the tour in terms of the cricket, but I do remember feeling I wasn't prepared enough for international cricket.
“Over the last few years, I've learned so much about my game and about the game itself. Now I know my plans, I know the opposition and what I want to do - so I definitely feel far more confident in my ability.”
The 2022 season hasn’t gone exactly to plan for the Scorchers star - after scoring a century in a club game for Leinster, MacMahon then got injured in the Scorchers first game of the season and missed the next three weeks. Thankfully, she returned last weekend in their victory over the Dragons:
“That was my first century – it was a long time coming so it was really nice to finally get that out of the way. It’s never nice getting injured. It’s been really hard watching from the side lines, but now I’m just excited to be back on the pitch and getting prepared to get going with the South Africa games.”
A recipient of a full-time contract this year, MacMahon believes that it is beginning to already benefit her game:
“The last few months have been really good, being able to train during the day and not having to rush home from college or work - like a lot of the girls had been doing along with training in the evenings or early mornings - so it's been great. We're able to recover better and spend more time on our video analysis and just have more time with the coaches. It’s definitely helped us prepare a lot better than we usually would so hopefully that shows on the pitch.
“The contracts mean so much to me personally. The timing worked out really well, as I just finished a Masters in Physiotherapy – the contract meant that I was able to fully concentrate on cricket without having to get a full-time job and try to balance both cricket and working. I'm really proud to play for my country, but that I can now do something that I love and also get paid for it is incredible. I've worked really hard over the last couple of years, put in a lot of work and sacrificed a huge amount to get here. So yes, it makes it all worthwhile when you're able to play at home in front of your friends and family and have that support. It really means a lot.”
With so many players missing for this series, due to both injuries and school/college exams, it’s a very youthful squad that the selectors have picked. Sophie, along with her more experienced team-mates will be expected to help guide those young players through the games. It’s something she’s relishing:
“As we have such a young squad at the moment, I am seen as a veteran just because I'm a bit older than the other girls, but it's so exciting to see the amount of talent we have coming through. It’s great that they will get their chance this summer - especially in this South Africa series when we're missing a few players. A lot of these younger girls will play bigger roles than they’ve had to previously, but we’re excited to see how they get on and deal with the pressure.
Looking ahead to the rest of a hectic summer Sophie knows that for Ireland to keep improving they need to play games against the best sides on a more regular basis, something that they are now getting to do, thanks to qualifying for the ICC Women’s Championship:
“It's a very exciting time to be an Irish cricketer. We've obviously wanted more fixtures for a long time, and now we have all these fixtures coming up. It’s amazing to be able to travel to places like Pakistan - somewhere I’d probably never get to go if I didn't play cricket.
“Getting to experience playing the world cup winners, and number one ranked team in the world is just something that I feel very, very lucky to be able to do over the next three years as we fulfil all our fixtures in the ICC Women’s Championship.
“It's a great opportunity for all of us to play against some of the best teams in the world and hopefully we keep improving as we go on. There’s only so much you can do in training, the only way we can improve is to be playing these top teams, so it's really exciting to be able to get the opportunity to do that.”
The Ireland Women’s squad for the T20Is and ODIs against South Africa is:
- Gaby Lewis (captain), Alana Dalzell, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Sarah Forbes, Shauna Kavanagh, Arlene Kelly, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Kate McEvoy, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Mary Waldron.
The series dates are:
- 3 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 1st T20I (Pembroke, 4.30pm start)
- 6 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 2nd T20I (Pembroke, 4.30pm start)
- 8 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 3rd T20I (Pembroke, 4.30pm start)
- 11 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 1st ODI (Clontarf, 10.45am start)
- 14 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 2nd ODI (Clontarf, 10.45am start)
- 17 June 2022: Ireland Women v South Africa Women – 3rd ODI (Clontarf, 10.45am start)
The three ODIs will be Ireland Women’s first fixtures as part of the ICC Women’s Championship.
All matches will be livestreamed and available at www.livestream.com/CricketIrelandLive.
Tickets to the matches are €5 adults, under-16s go free, with online ticket sales at: www.cricketireland.ie/tickets.