Gillespie and Ford front runners for Ireland job?
Ger Siggins (Sunday Independent)
It's a sign of the increased stature of Irish cricket that some experienced coaches are polishing their CVs this weekend ahead of the closing date next week for applications to coach the national team.
With Ireland’s first Test match likely to take place next summer, the job soon to be vacated by John Bracewell is now highly attractive, despite the flagging fortunes on the field.
Australian Jason Gillespie's agent has already been in touch with Cricket Ireland, while also among those believed to be interested in the role are fellow Aussie Chris Rogers, former Sri Lanka and South Africa coach Graham Ford, and retired Proteas keeper Mark Boucher.
But with other big vacancies opening up elsewhere, Cricket Ireland may have to move fast to secure its preferred candidate.
South Africa are expected to name England bowling coach Ottis Gibson as their new coach next week, leaving our neighbours with a vacancy just two months before an Ashes tour.
UK media are speculating that Gillespie is Trevor Bayliss’s choice for the job, which could remove the stand-out candidate from Ireland’s list.
The 42-year-old former fast bowler has built up an impressive coaching record since he retired from playing in 2008 with 71 test caps for his country. He took over Yorkshire, a sleeping giant, in 2012 and after promotion in his first season, led them to 2nd, 1st, 1stand 3rd in his four terms in Division One.
Gillespie has since coached in the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash T20, and recently took up a role as Interim Coach at Papua New Guinea.
Gillespie left Yorkshire because he wanted to spend more time with his young family, but recently admitted that he had considered applying for the job of Indian head coach.
"I talked a lot about that with my family, I had days where I thought, right, I'm definitely applying for it, I'm going to have a crack and see how far I get,” he said last month. "Other days where I wasn't so sure. In the end, I just felt I wasn't quite ready for that opportunity."
One stumbling block for him coming to Dublin could be financial, with the package on offer believed to be less than he could pick up for short spells working in the IPL and with his home town Adelaide Strikers in the Big Bash.
Earlier this summer Gillespie was appointed coach of Australia A for a tour to South Africa which was cancelled due to a wider dispute over player contracts. Rogers was to be his assistant on that tour.
Of the other candidates, Graham Ford is highly-regarded and was recommended by former Ireland coach Adi Birrell when he was consulted last month.
There has been a clamour among supporters for Trent Johnston to take the role, but the former Ireland captain has recently signed a new contract with New South Wales, who he has led to successive one-day trophy wins.
Johnston is keen to return to Ireland when the time is right but his stock is rising Down Under and would be hard to convince that time is now.
After Bracewell announced he was leaving, high performance director Richard Holdsworth said that the preferred candidate to replace him would have experience working in Test cricket.
“It doesn’t make sense to appoint someone with no experience of Test cricket,” he said. “We might be looking for someone who has worked as an assistant coach, or as a specialist consultant. Test cricket is very different even from first-class cricket, and we need as many people as possible who understand that.”
However, the job spec issued by Cricket Ireland does not mention the five-day game, instead insisting the candidate has a track record of working with senior elite cricket teams, and can demonstrate sustained success in their coaching career. It is desirable, but not essential, that he has international coaching and/or playing experience.
While Test cricket is important, Ireland’s ranking in white-ball cricket has slipped and addressing that and qualifying for 2019 World Cup in England must be a priority for the new man.
Whoever that is will again have the talents of John Mooney at his disposal. The all-rounder quit in December 2015 but has found a new lease of life and has made himself available again.
“I’m top of the batting tables in the Leinster leagues, and second in bowling, and I have another couple of years at least to play at the top level,” he says.
Mooney was also tantalised by the prospect of playing in the first-class interpros. “Leinster Lightning won’t pick you unless you’re available for Ireland so I told them I would be”, he explained on the Slog Sweep podcast.
“The first-class game needs to be as tough and as strong as possible and it needs to have the best players in the country playing in it. I don’t have any right to be picked for Ireland, but I want to make it harder for young guys to be picked. If they want a cap they’ll have to better than me.”