Sister Act for Ireland at cricket challenge
For Ireland's women's team it appears to be very much of a sister thing; with three different set of sisters as an integral part of the team.
For the upcoming ICC Women's Cricket Challenge in South Africa, beginning on 6 October twin sisters Isobel and Cecelia Joyce have been selected along with sisters Amy and Suzanne Kenealy. Heather Whelan has not been named in this squad to concentrate on work and family life, Jill is therefore the only Whelan.
The Joyce sisters come from a very strong cricketing background with brothers Dominick, Ed and Gus, all having played for Ireland and this was the main reason why the Joyce twins got involved with cricket in the first place.
Isobel Joyce refers to her five older brothers for the start of the momentum into cricket: "We used to play in the backyard together in the younger days. The boys would bring us outside all the time and give us coaching during the winter, and we lived in our cricket club during the summer. We had a group of friends there and we played cricket all day every day with the boys, including playing on the boys' team."
Twin sister Cecelia adds: "We were really lucky to be part of a very active youth section in Merrion Cricket Club and Ursula and Eddie Lewis took us through all the stages. Funnily enough Iz and I played with the boys at Under-11 level until we were banned for being girls!"
The sisters have been part of the Irish team for a significant amount of time, with Isobel debuting in 1999 and Cecelia in 2001.
The fact that there are a number of sisters in the squad is no coincidence Isobel states: "I think the reason why so many sisters are on the team is that it helps in a sport like cricket to have the family geared towards it. It was understood in our family that cricket took precedence and that holidays were worked around games. It has always been that way and it still is. Most people take holidays and go away during weekends in the summer, but we were always playing."
It has been questioned whether having siblings in the same sporting team enhances team spirit or makes it more difficult. Cecelia explains that she doesn't think it really makes a difference whether there are siblings on the team or not: "Each team is different and it is how the whole team gels that is important. Sometimes teammates can feel like family anyway, we spend so much time together and share a big part of our lives. Having said that, I love having my sister with me while we're away and especially for the upcoming trip to South Africa, it is a really important tournament to see where we are globally and prepare for next year's ICC Women's World Cup qualifier."
Isobel adds that: "It certainly produces a more settled off-field environment for me personally; if you're having a bad run then it is great to have your sister's support there."
The other sisters in the team are the Kenealy sisters_ 28-year-old Suzanne and Amy (22). Both have been in the Irish set-up for only a small amount of time, with both debuting in the summer of 2008, Amy in June to Suzanne's July.
Suzanne has risen through the ranks playing for Ireland at the Under-19 level and then for the senior team. Suzanne also works as the Teams Administrator at Cricket Ireland and can see the development of cricket in the country better than anyone else.
According to Suzanne: "Women's cricket in Ireland is community and family based. I suppose it's natural to have competitiveness among siblings and this would make each other raise their game. There are a few other sisters Ashling and Eimear Gill and Clodagh and Niamh Conway coming up through the ranks. All have represented Ireland Under-17 in the last two years.
"I think that you have to have a good relationship with your sister to be able to play on the same team. Luckily I have this with Amy. We play in the same club during the summer so we play regularly together. It will be great to have Amy with me in South Africa and for her to be there with me to enjoy the event."