IN a boost for women’s cricket in Northern Ireland, six Ulster girls have been selected for next year’s Ireland Senior Performance and Academy squads.

Waringstown’s Cara Murray retains her place in the 16-women senior squad, while two players based in the NCU and North West are among the 12 names in the Academy squad along with Naomi Matthews, who plays her cricket out of Dublin with Pembroke.

The NCU girls are prodigious 13-year-old Amy Hunter from Instonians and Donaghcloney Mill’s Jennifer Hanna, while the North West call-ups are Bready’s Alana Dalzell and Zara Craig from Eglinton.

Murray, 19, from Saintfield, has played eight times for Ireland since her debut in February 2018 and retains her place in the senior squad which will compete for a place in the next 50-over World Cup in New Zealand at the qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka.

In his first selection, Ireland Women’s head coach Ed Joyce has included “some exciting Under-19 players that we think will really benefit from extra training with an eye on a potential Under-19 World Cup in 2021”.

Hanna, last year’s NCU Young Female Player of the Year, Hunter and Dalzell were members of the Ireland Under-19 squad this season, while Craig received the North West girls’ interpro player of the year honour at the union’s annual awards last month.

For the first time, Ireland go into the new year with six contracted players — Laura Delany, Kim Garth, Gaby Lewis, Mary Waldron, Celeste Raack and Shauna Kavanagh — while the others are balancing their winter training with work and studies.