Head coach Graham Ford is the first casualty of Ireland’s poor performance at the T20 World Cup.

The popular South African has stepped down from his role with immediate effect citing the “many challenges and handicaps which Cricket Ireland have faced compared with other ICC Full Member nations”, and they “have taken their toll on me”.

With Ireland leaving in exactly four week’s time for a five-match white-ball tour to the United States followed by three World Cup Super League matches and three T20 internationals against West Indies, an interim coaching team will be put in place with the expectation that a full-time appointment will be in place for the T20 World Cup qualifying tournament in Oman in mid-February.

Following Ireland’s early exit from this year’s T20 World Cup in UAE, a T20 World Cup Review was launched last week but Ford, who celebrated his 61st birthday on Tuesday, has pre-empted any conclusions after almost exactly four years in the job.

He was appointed initially on a three-year deal which was extended by three years in 2019 and he had already stayed in post much longer than the first of his two spells as Sri Lanka coach in 2012 which lasted two years and 15 months respectively with a two-year spell at Surrey in between.

Undoubtedly working through the pandemic for the last 18 months, spending countless hours on the road to spend quality time with the players from all over Ireland had affected his mental and physical health and significantly in his farewell statement he says:” After much consideration and discussion with my family, I realise this is the right time for me to step away from Cricket Ireland.”

Ford was in charge for 102 games, of which 41 were won and 56 lost but since the pandemic, that win percentage is reduced to 35 per cent, despite one-day international victories against England and South Africa.

However, both those WCSL series were lost as was the three-match series against Afghanistan and Netherlands, while the UAE also won a T20 series in Dubai last month before Ireland’s solitary win at the World Cup against Netherlands.

However, Ford’s captain for the last two years, Andrew Balbirnie, had nothing but praise for his head coach when he spoke yesterday.

“Graham has been one of the best coaches I have ever worked with and I feel very fortunate that I got to spend four years working with him, not just for the playing development side of my game but for his incredible support during my captaincy to date,” he said.

“We have had our challenges over the last number of years as a squad, but his consistent positivity has been infectious and his determination to improve the skills of everyone in the squad has brought some of our young cricketers on leaps and bounds.

“I think more important than anything is the Fordy is a brilliant person and one that will be greatly missed in and around the squad and on behalf of the group we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Ed Joyce, head coach of the Ireland Women’s team, Pete Johnston, head of the Ireland Academy or Under 19s coach Ryan Eagleson will be in the frame as interim replacements, along with former T20 captain Gary Wilson, currently coach of North West Warriors..

Meanwhile, Ireland’s schedule at the U19 World Cup has also been announced. Their first game is against Uganda in Guyana on January 15, before they move to Trinidad for their other two group games against India and South Africa on January 19 and 21.