I got a chance to catch up with my old Irish captain and friend Miriam Grealey and managed to get a quick interview with her. A determinant captain, batter and bowler for Ireland, Miriam has had a long Irish career that spanned over 18 years.
Along the way she set up many batting and bowling records to be broken by future players. Miriam held the most capped player accolade for many years, before Clare Shillington took over that honour.
With a lot of hard work and fight Miriam set high standards for a lot of Irish women cricketers to follow.
Where did you start playing cricket and why?
St. Andrews College in 1982. One of my teachers, Caroline Watson was an International Cricketer and tried to get girls interested in playing. I never liked athletics so was a good opportunity to try something different.
What school did you attend? And, did you have to choose between Hockey and Cricket?
St. Andrews College. No, hockey was from Sept – March/April, Cricket was for the whole month of May!
When did you join YMCA or Claremont Road as it was known then?
On leaving school I joined Claremont Road CC in 1981/82. At this time there would not have been a lot of school cricket around for girls, but I can vaguely remember playing Wesley, and High School maybe Columbus.
Caroline Watson suggested both Siabh Young and myself join Claremont Road after school and I suppose it all started from there.
When you started in YMCA/Claremont Road who would have been your biggest rivals?
I can remember Clontarf winning everything for about 7 years, then Malahide gained strength and we ended up playing in many great finals for years to come.
My parents Mary and Jack would follow every game I played in, I would always know what time of year it was when nephew Caoimhan would arrive over from Italy to support YM in their final against Malahide.
Malahide girls would see the Grealey clan arrive early to set up their deck chairs, and be closely looking out for Siabh Young arriving off a plane to take part… great memories!
You started off as a medium pace bowler - when did you switch to spin?
Yes I started off playing cricket as a fast/medium pace bowler, I could not hold a bat back then. I batted 10 maybe 11 most clubs games. Originally I was selected for Ireland for as a bowler and on a trip to Holland playing against Denmark, Joe Caprani asked if I would open the batting because “I could hit a ball”. Needless to say I didn't last long but my love for batting started then.
What was your highest recorded batting score for YMCA?
I scored 152 against Rush CC on the 17th of July 2004
You went on to captain South Leinster and you were from the North Side, this must have been a strange one?
Yes, I actually captained both provinces. Firstly I captained South Leinster when I was playing for YM and then when YM folded and I captained North Leinster when playing for Rush. Alan Lewis and myself have both captained YM, South Leinster and Ireland.
Where was your first 100?
My first ton was on the 25th of July 2000 for Ireland against Pakistan in Rush, I finished on 101 not out that day.
You were the first women to reach 1000 runs in a domestic season, what a great achievement?
Yes, I had established myself as a bat, I knew my strengths and weaknesses and just played my shots. It took a long time and a lot of training to get to that point but it paid off. I suppose a few full tosses might have helped too :)
Where and when did you get your first cap for Ireland?
Belfast (NICC) June, 1987 against Australia. Batting at 10, I scored 6 not out, and 0 for 39 off 11 overs.
How many World Cups did you play in and where?
4 World Cups:- England, New Zealand, India and South Africa.
England - this was the first one and my parents came to watch.
New Zealand - we were televised in the quarter final
India - we played in front of around 10,000 people
South Africa - and I retired shortly afterwards
Did you have any cricketing role models, male or female, growing up?
I always admired Mary Pat Moore, my first International Captain for her leadership skills and man management. Ian Botham, Belinda Clarke and Debbie Hockley.
Where is the greatest place cricket has taken you?
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies but without doubt my best experience was India.
The Indians are just fanatical about cricket mens or womens, and playing in front of huge crowds was an experience I’ll never forget.
Were you ever sponsored as a player?
Yes I was very lucky to be sponsored by Gunn & Moore for nearly 14-15 years, and it was a full sponsorship which made life handy. I recieved new gear at the start of early season and if needed I would send off for more.
Who was your favourite coach and why?
Joe Caprani was the first International coach to see potential in me and really helped me with my batting, a little while later, Ginger O’Brien was a huge influence on how I captained the side. But without doubt John Wills had the biggest influence on my career, a brilliant coach who has forgotten more than I will ever know about cricket. I was also lucky enough to have John as my club coach too so it was easy to improve with someone like him helping me so much.
Who was your favourite captain?
Australian captain Belinda Clarke.
What about your game preparation? Did you have set routines?
The only habit I can remember having was after I had taken my guard batting, I would tap each shoe with my bat, twirl the bat around three times and hit my thigh pad twice! It made all the difference!
What has been your best cricketing moment?
I have four, my first 100 for Ireland against Pakistan in Rush CC, a very hard earned 50 against Australia in College Park, and while playing for YMCA Men’s 4XI in the cup against Pembroke CC, I hit a six off the last ball to win the match. And last but not least, winning the European Cup for the first time in 2001.
Are you a hoarder of cricket memorabilia?
I am a little yes, I have some shirts I swapped with other Captains at World Cups, a stump from my last World Cup in South Africa 2005, I have kept all my domestic medals with YMCA, some framed pictures that were presents of newspaper cut outs and my shirt when I retired in 2005. Siobhan McBennett also gave me my scoresheet framed of my Irish 100 against Pakistan. I also have a framed picture receiving my first cap.
Which Irish ground was your favourite ground to play in?
Obviously I am going to say YM but then Pembroke for the great buzz
What's the best piece of cricketing advice you've ever been given?
Elizabeth Owens (my vice captain at the time) said to me after not making the Australian World Cup Squad, “make yourself good enough so they can’t drop you again” so I did. Learning my trade batting, I would get out cheaply with poor shot selection, John Wills said to me in College Park, “it’s quite simple Miriam if you bat the 40 overs you will get near enough 100 every time” he was right.
You’ve been a part of 4 World Cup squads. What were special memories associated with each?
Raising the bat and leading out the side in World Cup games. Simple.
Do you follow women’s cricket now - and on Social media?
I do yes, I find Twitter great for up to date scores. Cricket Ireland is very good for information on the men’s team and matches, but a little slow on the womens’ side of things.
What advice do you have for young girls getting into cricket?
It sounds pretty boring, but nothing can replace repetitive work in the nets. There are some really great coaches and coaching aides out there now but nothing can replace hard work.
Also practice in nets like you would play any game in the middle. Batting in nets, ask the bowler for her field than take pleasure in telling her where you have hit her.
When bowling make sure you point out your dot balls.. Always set yourself targets, I found it much more fun than just going through the motions.
Will you stay in cricket when you are finished?
Now that my playing days are finished, and I think between playing, selecting, managing, I have done every job there is to do in cricket. I will now enjoy watching games from the sideline.
Where do you see Irish women's cricket future? Do you feel it is going in the right direction now?
With the help of Cricket Ireland and what they have put into the women’s game, I think it is heading in the right direction.
Competing in our first World T20 Cup was fantastic, and to compete again someday in the ODI World Cup would be the goal and with the talent Ireland have, I can certainly see happening in the future. But it’s getting harder for the girls to compete with the other nations as they seem to be all turning professional.
And the BIG one… name your best Irish team?
My best 11 (in no particular order)
Lastly, I believe you are quite handy at the old golf… what are you playing off?
I don’t know about handy but I am getting there. I am down to 20 now with the hope of being down a bit more by the end of the summer. I play out of Elm Green.