Much to reflect on after landmark year
Ger Siggins (Sunday Independent)
WHILE the bulk of Irish cricket followers are looking resolutely forward to the new era that comes with the new year there is still much to be done before 2017 heads back to the pavilion.
At the end of the month the senior men’s side fly to Dubai for their last game in Associate competition, taking on the old enemy, Scotland, as the Intercontinental Cup comes to a climax. Ireland’s three-in-a-row is unlikely to be extended, however, unless the new enemy, Afghanistan, stumbles badly. A three-ODI series follows between the two newest full members.
But before then, Cricket Ireland will look back on the year that its greatest victory was achieved off the field, in boardrooms in Dubai and London. The elevation to Test status, and all that comes with it, was the result of years of work by administrators led by CEO Warren Deutrom. Preparations are already moving quickly for the first Test, against Pakistan on May 11-15th.
On the field it was less fruitful, but there were plenty of positives for both senior sides, while the under-19 boys under Harry Tector qualified for their World Cup in New Zealand in January.
Several players emerged from the year in credit, including Andrew Balbirnie, whose 205no and 50 against Netherlands confirmed a great talent; Niall O’Brien, who showed his class with a battling century against New Zealand; and captain William Porterfield, who led from the front in a memorable innings at Lord’s, while also making three centuries in 2017.
The women’s side missed out on the World Cup in England, but had a couple of satisfying victories over Zimbabwe, and some new players started to press for places.
Next week the great performances are recognised at the Cricket Ireland awards, where there is strong competition for The Sunday Independent Aengus Fanning International Emerging Player of the Year Award. Aoife Beggs, Rachel Delaney and Jacob Mulder, who vie for this prestigious award, are all profiled alongside.
Porterfield, Kevin O’Brien and Paul Stirling are shortlisted for the senior men’s award, while Gaby Lewis, Rachel Delaney and Isobel Joyce vie for the women’s prize. A Joyce victory will require a satellite link as the former captain is currently playing for Tasmania.
There are also male and female awards for Youth internationals, one between the quartet of Harry Tector, Josh Little, Graham Kennedy and Mitchell Thompson. The female prize will go to Gaby Lewis, Amy Hunter or Orla Prendergast, the latter nominated for scoring a brilliant century and taking 5-17 in the Celtic Cup against Scotland.
The Academy also nominates in both genders, with new caps Lara Maritz and Leah Paul head-to-head for the award. The male gong will go to James Shannon or Simi Singh, heavy run-scorers last summer and both putting serious pressure on the Ireland top-order.
The Inter-Pro series attained first-class status in 2017, and George Dockrell, Kevin O'Brien, and James Shannon are contenders for its Player of the Year.
Dockrell, who finished 2nd in Division 2 with Trinity and 1st in Division 1 with Leinster, is front-runner for the club player prize too, where he is up against Nigel Jones and David Rankin. The women’s Super 3s award nominees are Kim Garth, Ireland captain Laura Delany and Mary Waldron.
Waringstown, Ballyspallen and Limerick are contenders for the club award, while Dale McDonough, Matt Read and Trevor Hamilton represent the hard-working groundskeepers. The official of the year prize will go to Mary McElwee, Gerard O'Sullivan or Andrew Mooney, while the coaching award contenders are Julie Logue, Kamal Merchant and Ryan Eagleson.
Three other awards, the Hall of Fame, Volunteer of the Year, and Outstanding Contribution, will be announced on the night.
Sunday Independent Aengus Fanning
International Emerging Player of the Year.
AOIFE BEGGS (18), has accumulated 13 caps since her debut in April. A product of the Rush club – her aunt Caitriona won 66 caps – she moved to YMCA when the north Dublin club’s women’s section closed two years ago. Beggs’ medium-pace bowling came to the fore against Zimbabwe when her 5-52 bowled Ireland to victory. “Aoife’s performances in club cricket over the last couple of seasons have been solid and was given an opportunity to tour with the Irish Senior Women’s Squad”, says Ireland head coach Aaron Hamilton, “She really grew as a young seam bowler in our attack.”
RACHEL DELANEY (20) made her debut in the same game as Beggs, and both have a high work ethic. An off-spinner who bats in the top order for her club, Merrion, she also wins praise from her coach: “Rachel is an up-and-coming off-spinning all-rounder who has the ability to bowl tight spells”, says Hamilton. “Rachel has performed well in the Toyota Super 3s over the last couple of seasons and is really starting to grow into being a confident spinner.” Delaney’s game is improving all the time and she will hope to add to her nine caps.
JACOB MULDER (22) is an Australian-born leg-spinner who is already putting pressure on the established spinners in the Ireland squad. Mulder has lived here since 2013 and came to prominence with North Down and the Northern Knights. Capped once in 2016, his selection was heralded by coach John Bracewell, who said, “I'm delighted to have a leg spinner who can attack both edges of the bat”. Now with CIYMS, Mulder added 13 more caps this year including 4-16 in a T20 against Scotland. His only home appearance this summer saw him make 38no to help Andrew Balbirnie to a double-century v Netherlands.
2012 Stuart Thompson
2013 John Anderson
2014 Craig Young
2015 Gaby Lewis
2016 Barry McCarthy