The new women's contracts were recently announced. While much of it was as expected there were a few nice stories in the news flash. Freya Sargent was the recipient of a full time contract and Christina Coulter Reilly a casual version. Both of course are Clontarf players.

Freya is from a long standing Clontarf cricketing family on her mother's side so cricket is very much in her blood. Christina was introduced to cricket through the club’s primary school programme when the coaches came to visit her school Springdale National School. Congratulations to both of them, the work starts now.

Tacked onto the end of the list was another name which hasn't been in an Irish squad for some 5 years. Una Raymond Hoey was awarded a retainer contract.  All three are Clontarf players and indeed former pupils of Mount Temple Comprehensive school.

Una lived about 100 meters from me in Raheny. I first met her in our local church where she would often arrive decked out in her Scoil Ui Chonnaill GAA gear ready to play a game as soon as the service ended. It always made me smile.

Before long, our paths crossed again when she appeared in the cricket club along with friends from her school Greenlanes National School.  Her Dad, Paul had approached us in advance, asking if she could train with the boys as she was friendly with a group of lads in her class who were coming down.  

It became very clear, very quickly that Una was not only able to compete with the boys but to outshine most of them.

She played on teams in the boys leagues which gave a suitable challenge for her abilities. There was precedent in this as Kim Garth in Pembroke and Lucy O’Reilly in YMCA had been outstanding performers against their male counterparts. Quickly, Una progressed into the women’s teams but what never changed was a wonderful work ethic that she brought and I am sure still brings to training. 

It was not uncommon to arrive in Castle Avenue and find herself and her Dad in the nets. Paul, that all too rare of a father who purely saw his role as supporting his daughter. If she wanted balls thrown to her, he threw them without comment or complaint. Some catches to be hit? He was there for that too and when she was practicing her throwing, he wisely invested in a baseball mitt.  

It didn't matter if it was in July or January, Una took her practice seriously and the result was a progressive improvement. She undoubtedly benefited from the arrival of female professionals in Clontarf in particular the early visitors, Queenslander, Selena Tainton and Tasmanian state player Emma Thompson.  
However, just as Una’s graph was rising, Clontarf’s was dipping. In 2016 she decided to move to Leinster where she could play Division 1 cricket. There was no rancour at the move from her former club, only the recognition that this was something she needed to do for her own sake.  

The move saw her capped in August of 2016 in an ODI against South Africa in which she scored 25. She only played 3 more ODI's, the last one arguably her best in hitting 42 against a very high class New Zealand side. Admittedly that game is more memorable as the game in which teenager Amelie Kerr hit an unbeaten 232, but it showed that Una was more than capable of playing at international level. In addition to the 4 ODIs she played 11 T20s, again scant reward for an intelligent batter and outstanding fielder.  

Una batting against New Zealand 2018

12th that day was Orla Prendergast 

In 2018, Una returned to Clontarf.  Fiona Manning had taken over the running of women’s cricket and things were on the up.  Kerry Tomlinson was coming over as the female professional and a crop of young talented players were coming through.  What they needed was a leader and role model.  Fiona thought “well it’s worth asking”.  And so Una returned to her northside roots. For the next 2 years she was excellent, leading the way with some outstanding performances.

2019 saw her head to Australia. And there she has stayed. She proved herself playing club cricket in Melbourne and has worked her way into the Victoria and the Melbourne Stars squads simply through performance. Along the way she met Tom who also is working his way into the Australian State system. I have no idea if approaches were ever made in the past 5 years as to her potential involvement in the Irish Squad but it was good to see her name back on the list last week.  

It's a reward for a hard working player. She will fit right in to what is a new team from the one she previously played on, apart from being extremely diligent, she is also one of the nicest people so she will no doubt be a popular figure in the group. Best of luck to her and all the contracted players.