Who are the players next in line for elevation to the senior ranks? We take a look at how some of the young guns waiting in the wings performed below senior level this season.

After a relatively barren spell of fixtures for the Wolves, there were definitely steps in the right direction in 2018, with Bangladesh A coming for an extended series.

There was the welcome development of matches for the Academy which made up for the lack of games at U19 level - World Cup aside -, and tours and home games for both the U17's and U15's.

The results were by and large encouraging, and several players put their hands up with dominant displays which will give Head Coach Graham Ford and his selectors food for thought.

JAMES MCCOLLUM emerged from the pack as the batsman most likely to be the next cab off the ranks, and his 170 against Scotland A was one of the innings of the season.

The Waringstown man clearly benefitted from his time over the winter in Adelaide and is returning there.

He scored 296 at an average of 59.20 and clearly has the technique and temperament to make the step up.

One area of concern was the bed-blocking by senior players using the Wolves series' as practice .

This was most evident in the T20 matches against Bangladesh A, when the Irish fielded a team which had over 1000 (yes, a thousand) senior appearances. For God's sake, let the kids play - we might learn something. Rant over!

JJ GARTH is that rarest of commodities, a leg-spinner with control. The senior team has been crying out for variety for years, and the Pembroke teenager may be the answer in the years ahead.

With Jacob Mulder struggling in 2018, Garth may be on the verge of usurping him.

HARRY AND TIM TECTOR showed real quality during the summer and it may be one of these pair who goes on to senior honours ahead of elder sibling Jack, whose finger injury hampered his hopes.

Despite only turning 18, Harry skippered Ireland Wolves, and this clearly marks him as one highly rated by the hierarchy. A fierce competitor with a steely attitude, his winter in Australia may well be the making of the young Dubliner.

Tim showed the DNA strand is alive and well with a number of impressive displays at U15 level, scoring centuries against Middlesex and Scotland.

It's sad that the route to county cricket has been closed for the Irish teenagers - it proved a successful set-up for both countries for the last two decades, and you have to hope Irish development doesn't suffer too much over the next few years.

I suspect we haven't heard the last of that - rumours are strong of a 'Bosman type challenge' in the courts for restraint of trade.

An expansion of the interpro set-up would alleviate some of my concerns, but given the current financial pressures experienced by Cricket Ireland - a major loss is forecast for 2018 - this seems unlikely to happen next year.

NEIL ROCK and STEPHEN DOHENY had excellent seasons, with Doheny showing his undoubted quality in making 115 against the Future Stars at Holywood.

Rock - who reminds me of a young Eoin Morgan - performed excellently at all levels, and scored heavily throughout the year.

He scores all round the wicket and if he continues to progress, who knows how far he will go.

He showed the ability to tailor his game seamlessly in all formats, and proved very adaptable.

Ireland's T20 woes in recent times have been well documented, but there were encouraging signs of a change in attitude in the Wolves and Academy games as the coaches embraced the fact that the game has indeed moved on.

GARETH DELANY boundary capability and high strike rates make him one to watch. He was included in the Ireland squad for the aborted Hong Kong Sixes, so he mightn't be too far away from donning the shamrock.

JJ Little made a welcome reappearance in the senior ranks, and another Irish U19 left-armer GRAHAM KENNEDY can follow in his footsteps.

The Ballyspallen man has huge ability and hopefully a winter in Australia will see the Warriors all-rounder continue his development. He can bat too and is the type of all-action cricketer ideally suited to the short game.

Pete Johnston, Head of the Cricket Ireland Academy was justifiably proud of the efforts of the squads below senior level, and paid tribute to the coaches.

"Huge credit has to go to all our Youth Coaches for such impressive results, in particular Ryan Eagleson, Nigel Jones, Brian Allen and Callum Atkinson as head coaches of their respective age groups.

"It must be so rewarding for all of them and our other Assistant and Specialist/Support Coaches to see the likes of Little, Kennedy, Garth, Tector and Rock all step up the representative ladder and hold their own at Provincial, Wolves and even Ireland level.

"Of course all of this starts at the clubs/schools and then through the strong development programs of the Unions."

While Ed Joyce's retirement has been a blow to the senior side, the coaching team has benefitted from having someone of his calibre on board, a fact acknowledged by the affable Johnston.

"Since coming on board as a Batting Coach, Ed Joyce has also already had a hugely positive impact and influence on our young players.

"At Wolves level, the competitiveness and togetherness on the field was very evident, it was particularly pleasing to see a very inexperienced young Wolves side beat a very strong and experienced Scotland A team away from home, while the tied series with Bangladesh A was also a very good step forward.

"With far more guaranteed cricket at Senior Level and some very strong performances on the pathway, I believe now is the ideal opportunity to invest in and challenge our emerging players more than ever before."

The new development of an Academy side was welcomed by Johnston, and their positive results mean the experience is likely to be repeated in 2019. He would like though for the U19 side to be given series against fellow Full Members.

"The formation of the Academy team this year has been a great success and I believe it serves real value in transitioning our young players to higher honours.

"While the Celtic Cup should remain our most prestigious youth event outside of Qualifiers and World Cups, the next step and a big priority will clearly be to play Full Members at U19 level outside of and in preparation for World Cups, if the funding can be there for that. "

Much then to be optimistic for in the years ahead. Let's hope the finances don't hinder Ireland's progress as they take the first tentative steps in the Full Member world.

The scorecards for all the Wolves and Academy matches can be viewed here

https://www.cricketeurope.com/CEIRELAND/2018/WOLVES/index.shtml

The Ireland U17 scorecards can be viewed here

https://www.cricketeurope.com/CEIRELAND/2018/YOUTHINTERNATIONAL/under17.shtml

Ireland U15 scorecards

https://www.cricketeurope.com/CEIRELAND/2018/YOUTHINTERNATIONAL/under15.shtml

Top Youth Batting Averages

# Name Club Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Ave
1 MRS Thompson Ireland 6 5 3 158 67* 79.00 208 75.96 - 1 - 27 - 79.00
2 T Tector Ireland 8 8 2 424 100* 70.67 455 89.89 2 2 1 42 4 70.67
3 W de Klerk Ireland 9 9 4 296 71* 59.20 147 62.59 - 3 1 31 2 59.20
4 AM Stiles Ireland 6 7 2 282 137* 56.40 340 82.94 1 1 1 43 2 56.40
5 JM Hunter Ireland 7 5 3 109 74* 54.50 123 88.62 - 1 - 13 2 54.50
6 H Tector Ireland 7 7 - 320 104 45.71 407 78.62 2 1 - 31 1 45.71
7 NA Rock Ireland 14 15 1 628 91 44.86 676 92.90 - 5 - 62 12 44.86
8 JB Little Ireland 7 7 2 183 55 36.60 141 129.79 - 1 1 21 8 36.60
9 N McGuire Ireland 9 8 - 244 73 30.50 240 91.25 - 2 1 36 1 30.50
10 MD Poskitt Ireland 7 8 - 239 75 29.88 273 87.55 - 2 - 35 4 29.88
11 J Grassi Ireland 7 7 - 206 75 29.43 345 59.71 - 2 1 20 1 29.43
12 J Forbes Ireland 9 7 2 140 51 28.00 195 70.77 - 1 2 13 - 28.00
13 B Brownlee Ireland 8 5 1 111 34* 27.75 61 80.33 - - - 10 2 27.75
14 OG Metcalfe Ireland 7 8 - 205 42 25.62 230 89.13 - - - 28 4 25.62
15 MH Burton Ireland 7 8 2 117 39 19.50 97 120.62 - - 2 11 8 19.50
16 ME Donegan Ireland 7 7 - 132 38 18.86 190 69.47 - - - 16 - 18.86
17 M Humphreys Ireland 9 8 - 109 46 13.62 67 43.28 - - - 14 - 13.62

Top Youth Bowling Averages
 
 
# Name Club Mat Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 5WI 10WM Ave
1 B Brownlee Ireland 8 35.2 1 161 11 3-34 14.64 4.56 19.27 - - 14.64
2 M Humphreys Ireland 9 50 1 252 16 4-17 15.75 5.04 18.75 - - 15.75
3 GA Hoey Ireland 6 58 9 213 12 3-33 17.75 3.67 29.00 - - 17.75
4 JJ Garth Ireland 11 106.1 9 428 20 4-18 21.40 4.03 31.85 - - 21.40
5 J Forbes Ireland 9 66 2 251 11 5-22 22.82 3.80 36.00 1 - 22.82
6 H Tector Ireland 7 44.2 2 189 8 3-32 23.62 4.26 33.25 - - 23.62
7 MRS Thompson Ireland 6 42.3 1 242 10 4-51 24.20 5.69 25.50 - - 24.20
8 JB Little Ireland 7 51.1 3 248 10 3-33 24.80 4.85 30.70 - - 24.80
9 GG McFaul Ireland 6 56.2 6 284 10 4-40 28.40 5.04 33.80 - - 28.40