2019 was always going to be a difficult year for Ireland Women given the high profile retirements of four of their most talented players at the end of 2018.

It was in many ways a turbulent year, with Aaron Hamilton's four-year reign coming to an abrupt and premature end in the middle of June following a review which obviously didn't go well.

'Sacked by mutual consent' is one way of describing the affable Aussie's departure, but much to his credit there was no scathing blast as he left, just a dignified silence.

Cricket Ireland moved swiftly to cover the void left by his departure, and the appointment of Ed Joyce was certainly a shrewd move on the part of the governing body. Ed has certainly the 'been there, done that' on the t-shirt.

Cricket Ireland  also unveiled the recipients of their first part-time professional contracts for women cricketers.

Irish skipper Laura Delany, the Pembroke trio of Kim Garth, Mary Waldron and Shauna Kavanagh, YMCA's Gaby Lewis, plus Merrion's Celeste Raack were the six recipients given the ground-breaking contracts.

Today marks a significant landmark in our women’s game – we’re not just here to launch the new international season, but to announce six part-time player contracts – the first in cricket in this country, and making cricket one of very few team sports in Ireland to have professionally-contracted women players," said Performance Director Richard Holdsworth at the launch.

A small step, but certainly a significant one which can be built upon in the years to come.

On the field of play, the team played 14 capped matches, all T20 internationals, as well as three uncapped games against an England Academy side.

Those three matches were hastily arranged following Zimbabwe's withdrawal from a planned six-match series just 48 hours before the African side were due to arrive. The series was to be a major part of the Irish team's preparations for the T20 World Cup Qualifiers and were an undoubted blow.

Of the capped games, Ireland won five. lost eight and there was one NR, which was unfortunate as Ireland had posted 213 for 4 against the Dutch, with a record stand of 112 between Gaby Lewis (71) and Orla Prendergast (38).

There was the bitter disappointment of not qualifying for the T20 World Cup in Australia next year, losing a crucial group game against Thailand - their third loss to the Asian side during the year - which meant a much more difficult semi-final against Bangladesh, which they lost by four wickets despite a valiant bowling display.

There were 16 players used during the course of the season, and with so many young and relatively inexperienced players, it's not surprising that the results weren't that great.

A look at the batting stats show four players scored half centuries - Gaby Lewis (2), Kim Garth, Mary Waldron and Eimear Richardson passing the landmark.

One area where the squad need to improve is their Strike Rates - only Lewis, Richardson, and Rebecca Stokell's were above 100. Something for Ed Joyce to work upon.

The bowling stats make for better reading with six bowlers having economy rates under six.

Eimear Richardson was the stand-out performer taking 16 wickets and an economy rate of 4.21. Others who kept things tight were Orla Prendergast, Kim Garth, Sophie MacMahon, Leah Paul and Celeste Raack.

The year ended just as 2018 did with the news of another retirement. Opening bowler Amy Kenealy called it a day having not featured all season. The Leinster player always seemed to have a smile on her face and made the most of her talents to reach the highest level including appearances in two T20 World Cups.

There's no doubt that Ireland need more games, not just at senior level but at all age groups. We saw just how much Thailand benefitted from an intensive programme at all levels, and hopefully Ireland will take steps to increase the playing schedule.

The Super Three series has helped in recent times, but familiarity breeds contempt. Ireland need exposure to other countries to benchmark their progress and assess just what is required.

I'm not naïve - I understand there are budgets and time-off constraints for what is essentially a predominantly amateur team.

However, if the failure to qualify for global tournaments isn't to become the norm, then radical solutions need to be sought.

The decision by ICC to start an U19 World Cup is a welcome one, and that may be just the vehicle for Ireland's young up and coming talented teenagers to make their mark.

Let us hope so.

 

IRELAND WOMEN BATTING

Top Batting Averages min: 30 Runs 1 Innings

# Name Club Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Ave
1 KJ Garth Ireland 11 11 3 335 51* 41.88 357 93.84 - 1 - 31 2 41.88
2 MV Waldron Ireland 14 12 5 212 55* 30.29 237 89.45 - 1 - 22 - 30.29
3 EAJ Richardson Ireland 11 7 2 133 63* 26.60 106 125.47 - 1 - 18 2 26.60
4 GH Lewis Ireland 14 14 1 246 71 18.92 186 132.26 - 2 1 35 5 18.92
5 L Delany Ireland 12 9 2 119 28 17.00 146 81.51 - - - 9 - 17.00
6 R Stokell Ireland 8 8 1 105 36 15.00 98 107.14 - - 1 14 - 15.00
7 L Paul Ireland 9 6 1 61 26 12.20 82 74.39 - - - 4 - 12.20
8 O Prendergast Ireland 8 8 1 80 38 11.43 81 98.77 - - - 10 - 11.43
9 SM Kavanagh Ireland 11 8 2 41 12 6.83 60 68.33 - - - 1 - 6.83

IRELAND WOMEN BOWLING

Top Bowling Averages min: 3wkts 1ov's

# Name Club Mat Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 5WI 10WM Ave
1 EAJ Richardson Ireland 11 36.4 2 153 16 3-9 9.56 4.17 13.75 - - 9.56
2 O Prendergast Ireland 8 17.3 3 84 5 2-11 16.80 4.80 21.00 - - 16.80
3 L Paul Ireland 9 19 1 110 6 3-10 18.33 5.79 19.00 - - 18.33
4 KJ Garth Ireland 11 29 - 151 8 3-22 18.88 5.21 21.75 - - 18.88
5 L Maritz Ireland 10 23 1 170 8 3-4 21.25 7.39 17.25 - - 21.25
6 L Delany Ireland 12 21.2 - 134 6 2-17 22.33 6.28 21.33 - - 22.33
7 S MacMahon Ireland 12 34 - 182 8 2-13 22.75 5.35 25.50 - - 22.75
8 C Raack Ireland 12 31 1 165 5 2-11 33.00 5.32 37.20 - - 33.00

IRELAND WOMEN OVERALL

# Name Club ID Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 0 4s 6s Overs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 5WI 10WM Ct St RO
1 L Delany Ireland 068 12 9 2 119 28 17.00 146 81.51 - - - 9 - 21.2 - 134 6 2-17 22.33 6.28 21.33 - - 3 - 1
2 KJ Garth Ireland 069 11 11 3 335 51* 41.88 357 93.84 - 1 - 31 2 29 - 151 8 3-22 18.88 5.21 21.75 - - 5 - 1
3 SM Kavanagh Ireland 076 11 8 2 41 12 6.83 60 68.33 - - - 1 - - - - -   - - - - - - - 2
4 A Kerrison Ireland 099 2 - - - - - - - - - - - - 5 - 39 - 0-18 - 7.80 - - - - - -
5 GH Lewis Ireland 087 14 14 1 246 71 18.92 186 132.26 - 2 1 35 5 - - - -   - - - - - 3 - 1
6 H Little Ireland 102 4 1 - 2 2 2.00 4 50.00 - - - - - 6 - 34 - 0-6 - 5.67 - - - - - -
7 L Little Ireland 096 9 3 1 7 4* 3.50 13 53.85 - - 1 1 - 16 - 138 - 0-6 - 8.62 - - - 1 - 1
8 S MacMahon Ireland 095 12 6 2 14 11* 3.50 21 66.67 - - 4 1 - 34 - 182 8 2-13 22.75 5.35 25.50 - - 2 - 3
9 L Maritz Ireland 093 10 3 - 8 5 2.67 10 80.00 - - - - - 23 1 170 8 3-4 21.25 7.39 17.25 - - 4 - 1
10 L Paul Ireland 094 9 6 1 61 26 12.20 82 74.39 - - - 4 - 19 1 110 6 3-10 18.33 5.79 19.00 - - 5 - 2
11 O Prendergast Ireland 103 8 8 1 80 38 11.43 81 98.77 - - - 10 - 17.3 3 84 5 2-11 16.80 4.80 21.00 - - 2 - -
12 C Raack Ireland 101 12 1 1 9 9* - 8 112.50 - - - 1 - 31 1 165 5 2-11 33.00 5.32 37.20 - - 1 - -
13 U Raymond-Hoey Ireland 086 7 5 - 23 17 4.60 47 48.94 - - 1 - - - - - -   - - - - - - - -
14 EAJ Richardson Ireland 059 11 7 2 133 63* 26.60 106 125.47 - 1 - 18 2 36.4 2 153 16 3-9 9.56 4.17 13.75 - - 2 - -
15 R Stokell Ireland 097 8 8 1 105 36 15.00 98 107.14 - - 1 14 - - - - -   - - - - - 2 - -
16 MV Waldron Ireland 070 14 12 5 212 55* 30.29 237 89.45 - 1 - 22 - - - - -   - - - - - 6 1 3