In less than a week's time, the Ireland women's team will head to South Africa to face the five other nations ranked 5-10; Pakistan, West Indies, South Africa, Netherlands, and Sri Lanka. Ireland currently lie in ninth place.

The ICC Women's Cricket Challenge begins on October 6th in Potchefstroom, South Africa and is the first tournament of its kind. It is a great opportunity for Ireland as fixtures against teams ranked higher than them are few and far between.

“This trip is a great chance for us to get a yardstick of where we are in relation to other teams ahead of the World Cup Qualifiers,” says newly appointed interim coach Stephen Moreton. Ask him what his aim is for the tournament and he's not quite sure how to put it. “I don't want to say create an upset, because it wouldn't be one. I want this to be a vehicle for the team to believe they can achieve something on the world stage.”

With Heather Whelan taking a break from international cricket to concentrate on her work and family life, the role of captain became vacant at the end of the summer, and Ciara Metcalfe was more than willing to take over the job. “I can't wait to go,” she says. “I'd like us to go there and create a team togetherness; winning some matches would be great too.”

A two week tour with five one-day matches and three Twenty20 matches represents a difficult challenge for a team of players used to playing in two and three match series, but that's not what Moreton feels will most challenge the team. “To some extent we've gone some way to overcoming what I think our greatest challenge is, and that's creating an open and trusting environment. But aside from that, coping with the power and athleticism of sides like West Indies and South Africa will be tough.”

Ciara hopes that all the hard work will show on the pitch. “When the squad was picked, we got together with the management and we all agreed to step up our commitment in training and fitness. We have been doing 6.30am fitness as well as spinning classes, along with organising one-on-one sessions with Stephen and doing group training outdoor and indoor.

“I think after we played England and New Zealand [in July] we all saw where we wanted to be, and we've put in a lot of work. The challenge for us now is to continue on that upward curve and to translate all that hard work onto the pitch and into our performances.”

Ultimately though, this tournament is the first in a series of competitions the team hopes to perform at. Qualification for the next World Cup is the ultimate aim, and Ireland can achieve that by winning or coming second at the World Cup Qualifying tournament next year in Bangladesh. “This is sort of like a pre-tournament tournament for us - like a dress rehearsal to give us an idea of where we need to go from here,” says Ciara.

“Regardless of who continues as coach after this tournament, they will inherit a talented squad with a mix of young players and a strong group of experienced players,” assures Moreton. “We've started something very positive but it's only the beginning of the journey, our goals lie 12 and 24 months away and I would love to be involved with the team to help achieve those goals.”