As the 2019 season looms expectantly on the horizon, and everyone begins to rummage around their house to try and find the foldable chairs and the warm fleeces – typical essentials for any cricket match. I think now is the best time to advertise the fact that this season is most definitely ‘exceeding boundaries’.

History is quite literally being made, because for the first time ever the North West have decided to enter a women’s team in the Qualifying 3 league. Altogether, this squad will compete in at least six away fixtures plus cup games.

This is a promising development. I’m sure it’s safe to say that this emerging team’s performance will be watched with eagle eyes over the course of the summer, and I imagine they will be met with fierce competition from the remaining teams in that league.

As per my previous article, the NWCU did say that womenʼs cricket will be ‘numero unoʼ on the agenda during 2019, and it is certainly obvious that they have stuck to their word. If you have an unhealthy relationship with social media (like my unapologetic self), then you’ll know that last week the NW announced a job advertisement for a ‘Women and Girl’s Development Officer’.

It goes without saying that the ideal candidate needs to show a burning passion to make crucial, milestone developments within women’s cricket amongst other things that For me, out of all the positive changes made thus far by the NWCU, this is the one that I am most looking forward to hearing about. Applications for this post close today - 26th April.

I asked Peter McCartney, General Manager of the NWCU about the new developments: “We have made Women & Girl’s cricket a key part of our Strategy and it’s important we deliver on this. We are including a Women’s team in Qualifying 3 for the first time to increase the weekend playing opportunities and have a considerable spring and summer programme aimed at increasing participation.

"Probably out biggest development is the recruitment of a Women & Girl’s Development Officer. We see this role as being a big driver in increasing female participation in cricket across schools and clubs, for both youth and senior cricketers.”

Moving on, Iʼm not sure if many remember this but last September the NW ladies squad attended an Inter-pro tri-series at Leinster CC. This consisted of three T20 matches involving the NWCU, NCU and Leinster CC ladies. Even though it was last year, I often still hear this event being woven into today’s passing conversation - obviously proving that a great day was had by all.

This leads me on nicely to my next point. This season, the NW have introduced new additional fixtures for their representative women’s team. Ideally, this was done in the hopes of providing invaluable match experience and to mimic a similar outcome to last year’s impressive tri-series.

Not only this, but a new U18s player pathway has also been created with a new coaching and training programme. McCartney was keen to promote the new programme but also expressed concerns about the current pathway:

“As a Union though we do need to create a better player pathway for our talented athletes. We have put in new structures in place for our Girls Warriors programme. The problem for us locally is where do they go after youth level? The Super 3’s is an option but most of the games are in Oakhill and it’s unfair to be asking a player to complete an 8hr round trip for what could be a T20 game.

"We would be keen for an Interprovincial Tournament at maybe U15 or U17 level, similar to the boys tournament. Hopefully then in a number of years as we develop those players through our system we could have a Senior Interpro tournament and I’d love to see a number of North West players pushing for Senior International honours. We have the talent here, it’s important however that both Cricket Ireland and the NWCU develop it in the right way.”

All these developments are now set in stone, and they hint for a very lively summer ahead. The NWCU will continue to monitor the possibility of a new league and cup structure to try and accommodate all teams within the ladies league.

By this I mean, the NW want a structure that will allow for competitiveness but also allow for the fun, social aspect of cricket to be intertwined within it.