The Ireland squad took a break on Friday night, although their first game in the World Twenty20 in Guyana is just seven days away. The excuse was to toast their captain, Laura Delany, who was named Female Player of the Year at the Cricket Ireland awards in Dublin.
“I’m delighted to receive this honour and sorry I can’t be there to enjoy the night,” she said in a video link.
Una Raymond-Hoey is not on the trip, but will be on many more in the future. She collected the Aengus Fanning Sunday Independent Emerging Player award and is interviewed alongside.
Tim Murtagh was a popular choice as Male Player of the Year, the Middlesex man expressing delight at winning in such a landmark season. “To be the one who bowled Ireland’s first ball in Test cricket was humbling, a little bit scary. Especially when it took more than five minutes to bowl the second ball,” he recalled.
The ceremony was the first since Ireland began playing Tests, a fact noted by chief executive Warren Deutrom in his annual state-of-the-cricket-union speech. He pointed out Cricket Ireland’s highpoints – “the senior women qualifying for the World T20; staging two sell-out T20s against India under glorious skies; hosting an ICC conference for the first time; opening our new high-performance centre; welcoming our first female President; securing a hundred-plus men’s international fixtures over the next four years; even hosting rock-and-roll royalty at the Test match.
“All are significant milestones; most are firsts for us. Perhaps in terms of making an impact on the Irish sporting landscape, maybe only hockey and rugby could boast a bigger footprint this year. For fans of Irish cricket, these are exciting times – more games, greater exposure for our international and domestic structures, and the emergence of new and exciting young talent.
“For many Irish cricket fans, and the wider community outside the immediate cricket bubble, they would probably mark this down as a very good year, at least off the pitch. I will, however, pose a simple question for all the people in this room: after the transformational year that was 2017, how do we now feel 12 months down the road after our first year in big school? Do we feel that same sense of elation?
“Have we delivered a year of success or simply fulfilled what would be ordinarily expected of a Full Member nation? Or, for some people, is what happens off the pitch largely irrelevant until results for our senior men improve on it? What we do know, as an organisation, is that we are in a bigger spotlight, expectations are high, and the level of scrutiny, debate and critique are even higher.
“But that is to be expected – that we are being held to a higher standard by being a Full Member is no surprise. With growth, comes growing pains, and with change comes uncertainty. Perhaps it is time to stop and take a breath, to consolidate where we are – not look too soon to that next barrier to breach, or mountain to climb. Perhaps we need to re-set our expectations.”
Deutrom also said his priorities were addressing the facilities deficit and helping the provincial unions to grow into businesses. The CEO has been under fire in recent days over a proposal to hive off the employment of six development officers to the provinces. He said the consultation process had begun, but added, “Cricket Ireland’s commitment to funding development is unwavering and the grass-roots of our game remains a top priority for the organisation - there will be no reduction of funding for development/participation activities now and in the foreseeable future.”
Deutrom went on to say that the unions need to become a fulcrum – “our job is to support them so that they, in turn, support our clubs, and provide our pipeline of future internationals.”
The speech didn’t mention Munster, who have played in the T20 interpros since 2017 but who could be omitted for 2019 if a controversial high-performance committee recommendation to the board is accepted.
Deutrom also signalled a growing commitment to women’s cricket, where its senior side have a higher world ranking than Ireland’s men. The organisation had a female president for the first time this year, and he hailed Aideen Rice as a trailblazer for the next generation of female leaders in Irish cricket.
He also looked forward to 2019, when England will visit Malahide for an ODI and host Ireland at Lord’s and looked back to the tea interval at the Test when almost 100 former internationals were introduced to the crowd.
“Seventy-year-olds rubbed shoulders with 30-year-olds; men with women; north and south; native and foreign; friends and a few rivals – but all united by their love and dedication to Irish cricket, most smiling, a few tearful – but everyone proud as hell. I’ll never forget it.”
The awards recognised excellence and achievement this year, with Tector brothers Tim (Youth) and Harry (Academy) picking up player awards, and husband and wife John Anderson and Isobel Joyce each winning the respective club player awards.
Waringstown were named club of the year, but there was a special award to Adamstown, which has grown quickly in nine years to 13 teams and plays a vital role in its west Dublin community.
The Cricket Writers inducted Garfield Harrison to the Hall of Fame, while the acknowledgement of Murray Power’s outstanding contribution was a popular award.