Cricket Ireland is not just making history on the field this week, it is also breaking new ground in the committee box.
Aideen Rice, from YMCA Dublin, is not just the first female president of the governing body, but only the second to hold such a post in any of the major cricket nations. On Sunday she was there to greet the two Michaels – Higgins and Jagger – and has been a breath of fresh air in the role.
After 77 men it was undoubtedly long-past time for change, although the Irish Women’s Cricket Union only merged with the Irish Cricket Union in 2001. A Cricket Europe column calling for a woman president brought the matter to the fore and Cricket Ireland agreed.
Rice has been involved with the sport for almost four decades and has led the widely-admired YMCA youth set-up that has been successful in terms of trophies and numbers introduced to the game.
One of her players, Jack Tector, is in the Ireland squad for next week’s Test match.
Rice was a leading hockey player whose club, Genesis, formed the core of YMCA’s new women’s cricket section in 1981. She played for several years but rejoined the club when her children took up the game in 1994.
“I did all the things parents do to help out, driving teams, score-keeping, and eventually getting on the coaching ladder.”
Even when Morwenna and David dropped out, their mother stayed involved and after “a few disheartening years” helped bring her club to the forefront of youth cricket. She was the first winner of the Johnston Mooney and O’Brien Volunteer of the Year at the 2012 Cricket Ireland Awards.
Although there had been rumblings about the lack of women at the top of the organisation, it was still a shock to Rice when she was asked if she would be president and being the first woman meant it was an important honour.
“There were lots of other women who could have been asked, so it is a lot of being in the right place at the right time and having the time to do the job.”
Daughter of the celebrated folklorist Seán Ó Suilleabháin, Aideen may drop a ‘cúpla focail’ into speeches over her historic year.
It is a largely ceremonial role, but Rice will no doubt take the opportunity to press the case for the youth cricketers without whom there will be no future for the sport. “It’s all about getting kids into the game,” she says.
Now the Test is here, she is particularly looking forward the Women’s World T20 qualifiers in the Netherlands in July.
“It should be a very exciting summer, especially when the women play Bangladesh and the men play India in Malahide in June. That will be a great day.”