SEVEN PLAYERS AWARDED INTERPRO CONTRACTS

Seven players have been awarded part-time contracts from April for the upcoming interpro series. Five come from the Leinster region, two from the NCU, while the North West based players failed to get any.

The Northern Knights pair of Nathan Smith and James McCollum were given 8-month Category A contracts, as was Sean Terry, the 26 year-old Hills batsman who won the last of his six caps against Australia back in 2016.

The four category B six-month deals have gone to four Leinster Lightning players, with the Pembroke pair of Josh Little and Lorcan Tucker joined by Clontarf pace bowler David Delany and Ireland A international Jack Tector.

“The National Selectors had a very tough call to make on who the seven players should be, but looked closely at what skill sets Graham Ford (Head Coach of Ireland Men’s senior team) will need over the coming years as part of a succession planning process,” said Chair of National Men’s Selectors, Andrew White.

“Having the players spend more time under the guidance and expertise of our High-Performance coaches and support staff is vital. That said, performances in Inter-Provincial and Wolves fixtures will continue to be the avenue on which players are selected to represent Ireland.”

There will be a small increase in the very modest match fees that players receive for the 2018 season. The three-day matches in the past have seen some players not willing to sacrifice time off work, and while this increase will be welcomed, it's highly unlikely to alter unavailability issues for working players.

The increase in Head Coaches alloted times is to be applauded, with Performace Director Richard Holdsworth saying: “It is both the quality of our top coaches and the hours they can put in that will really provide a boost for our talented players coming up through the system.”

While the awarding of further contracts to the region least in need may seem a strange move by the governing body, it may well be that Dublin based players may be on the move to the other regions after the Board of Cricket Ireland has formally agreed to amendments to Irish Cricket rules that will allow easier movement by players between the Provincial Unions.

Lightning have won 13 of the 15 trophies on offer since the interpros were revamped five years ago, and the Dubliners have completed the treble three seasons running.

Coach Albert van der Merwe often had 11 senior internationals to call upon, with many more left in the wings.

Niall O'Brien played for the Warriors in 2017 after being told he was surplus to requirements at Lightning, and others may well decide to follow in his footsteps for 2018. Ireland Under 19 skipper Harry Tector is one that may have to travel further afield for interpro recognition, as well as his youth colleague Neil Rock.

“The change in eligibility rules is an important one, and one the Boards of the Provincial Unions should be applauded for. We know Leinster have proven to be the most successful and talent-rich sides in the competition, and while this has led to fierce competition within the Leinster side to make the first eleven, in reality it has meant that some of Ireland’s top domestic talent is sitting on the bench each week,” said Holdsworth.

“This isn’t good for players, or for Irish cricket. We want our first-class competition to feature the best players, and to ensure our upcoming talent is pitting itself against strong competition. The freedom to move between Provincial Unions will hopefully spread the talent more evenly and see a ‘best v best’ competition, which is what the players and fans want.”

The 2018 interpro season starts on May 1st when Lightning entertain Warriors at Oak Hill in the championship, while on the same days the Knights face Ireland Wolves at Stormont.

Category A - 8-month F/T Contracts:

Sean Terry (The Hills), Nathan Smith (Instonians) , and James McCollum (Waringstown).

Category B - 6-month Summer Contracts :

Jack Tector (YMCA), David Delany (Clontarf), Josh Little (Pembroke), Lorcan Tucker (Pembroke).