Cricket Ireland has announced the senior women international and Academy squads for 2019 - marking the start of a new era for the sport after what became a watershed year in 2018.

In November 2018 Irish fans witnessed the retirements of four of Ireland Women’s greatest-ever players - Isobel Joyce, Cecelia Joyce, Clare Shillington and Ciara Metcalfe – players with over 570 caps collectively.

Aaron Hamilton, Head Coach of the Ireland Women’s cricket team, spoke today about the new Irish women’s cricket landscape: “We’re at the start of a generational change - names that have appeared regularly on the Ireland Women’s team sheet for the last 20 years are no longer there. It is never an easy process to replace that level of playing experience, but we have a talented squad and a good leadership team, so we’ve a good base to grow from.

“We’ve had a close-knit international squad over recent years, but with the success of the Super 3’s Series and further development of the Girl’s Academy, the ability to integrate new players into the senior set-up has become an easier proposition. We are also fortunate to have the captain and vice-captain combination of Laura Delany and Kim Garth – supported by a number of experienced colleagues - to lead that process, so I am confident we can quickly gel as a unit.

“I suspect that we will look back on 2019 as a big year for Irish women’s cricket. The introduction of the first-ever women’s part-time contracts, home internationals and a T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament will be the headline stories, but as a management team we are seeing this year as the beginning of our campaign to be part of an expanded ICC Women’s Championship in 2021. To qualify for that competition will be a literal game-changer for the women’s game in Ireland – and the work on developing a squad capable of competing regularly on the world stage against the world’s best teams will be a multi-year project.”

Laura Delany, Ireland Women’s captain, speaking from Melbourne where she is currently playing club cricket, said: “2018 was a year of mixed emotions for the team as we tested ourselves against the world’s best. We saw several breakthrough performances by the likes of Gaby Lewis, Lucy O’Reilly and Celeste Raack, and said farewell to four legends of the women’s game. While the international squad is entering a new cycle, it is great that we still retain some experienced performers like Mary Waldron, Shauna Kavanagh and Eimear Richardson to help the younger players step up to the demands of international cricket.

“Kim and I have discussed the leadership role we will be playing in this new cycle and feel, between the senior performance squad and the Academy squad, we have a great talent pool to draw from.

“We are also as an international squad, acutely aware of the positive role we can play in the rise of women’s sport in Ireland. We hope that as the profile of women’s cricket grows, we will be able to inspire more young girls to see our sport as an attractive option.”

The two squads named today are as follows:

Women’s Senior Performance Squad

Laura Delany (C), Kim Garth (VC), Shauna Kavanagh, Amy Kenealy, Gaby Lewis, Lucy O’Reilly, Una Raymond-Hoey, Eimear Richardson, Mary Waldron, Celeste Raack, Rebecca Stokell, Lara Maritz, Naomi Matthews, Louise Little, Cara Murray, Robyn Lewis. Women’s

Academy Squad

Amy Hunter, Anna Kerrison, Caoimhe McCann, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Jane Maguire, Aoife Beggs, Sophie MacMahon, Rachel Delaney, Jennifer Gray, Hannah Little.