Irish cricketers “can learn from and create synergy” with Olympic athletes at their new training campus at Abbotstown, according to Cricket Ireland's high performance director Richard Holdsworth.

Irish cricket's governing body opened Phase One of their €700,000 state-of-the-art High Performance Centre at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus on Monday, a facilty which comprises five artificial and 16 grass practice wickets, and a 3,000 m2 grass-covered fielding practice area.

Many of Ireland's top Olympic hopefuls have a training base at Sport Ireland's west Dublin complex, including Rhys McClenaghan, the 19-year old gymnast from Newtownards, who won pommel horse gold at the European Championships in Glasgow on Sunday.

And Holdsworth hopes Irish cricketers can tap in to the expertise of elite coaches and athletes preparing for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“Our cricketers are very professional, but they will see Olympic medalists who come in and are absolutely ruthless in their training,” he continued.

“There is a synergy created through the cross-pollination of sports. We spoke with Bernard Dunne, Irish Boxing's high-performance director, only last week.

“We discussed fast footwork in boxing, and how it is also a key skill in batting.

“We also had a conversation about lifestyle choices for young athletes, and how to develop young players.

“Our High Performance Centre is situated next to the Institute of Sport, so we will have access to their physio and strength and conditioning facilities, and their doctors, nutritionists, and lifestyle management people.

“There are a lot of things both athletes and practitioners can learn from each other in that environment.”

Sport Ireland has given Cricket Ireland a 100-year lease on the land at a peppercorn rent, while the €700,000 capital costs of the facility were met by the International Cricket Council Development Facility fund, and a “good contribution” from the businessman Denis O'Brien.

Cricket Ireland hope Phase Two, the construction of a new building which will include an ethylene tetrafluoroethylene clear roof canopy to allow players to practice on grass in wet weather, will be completed by 2020.

“Firstly, we would like to thank the Irish government and Sport Ireland for their ongoing support for cricket,” Ross McCollum, Chairman of Cricket Ireland, said at the launch.
“Through both financial support and provision of a lease for the land here at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus, we now have a dedicated home from which we can push our sport forward to new heights.”
“Secondly, we would like to thank our major funding partners, the International Cricket Council and Mr Denis O’Brien.

“Your financial contributions towards this project have ensured we have been able to bring our vision to fruition, and have placed Ireland amongst the best in world cricket.”

Holdsworth says the new facility will be crucial for player training and development, as the Irish men's team prepare for 12 Tests, 62 one-day internationals and 59 Twenty20 internationals between now and 2023 under the ICC's “Future Tours Programme”.

“Our county players were used to being able to step into the ground every day of the summer to have a good net,” he continued.

“That is something you would expect a Test nation to have, but previously we were reliant on the clubs for those practice facilities.”

Holdsworth also confirmed Cricket Ireland are close to submitting plans to the government for funding for their new national stadium at Abbotstown.

The stadium, which will be within walking distance of the new High Performance Centre, is likely to be built in three phases.

The first phase, which Cricket Ireland hope will be completed by 2023, will cost around €10m and include a new pavilion and 4,000 seats.

“Those plans will go to the government over the next month,” Holdsworth continued.

“Both the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin, have made commitments that they will support us.

“We intend to design the stadium along the model of Southampton's Rose Bowl.

“They started with a low-level bank of 5,000 seats and grass banking, then built back.

“We will do the same, and eventually look to build back to eventually have a capacity of 12,000-15,000 seats.

“We don't need a 12,000 seat stadium now – we can make do with 4,000 seats.

“We don't need floodlights now, but we need to put in the infrastructure to build them later.”