Edmund Joyce recently scored his maiden Championship half-century for Middlesex against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, an innings of 51 which, although it may not have set the cricketing world alight, is of much significance in these parts. It is some considerable time since an Irishman achieved this feat, notwithstanding Jason Molin's efforts for Oxford University in 1998 where he, too, recorded half-centuries.
Andy Patterson had a good run in the Sussex side as a wicket-keeper whom it was hoped would replicate many high scores in 2nd XI games, but it did not come to pass. Ryan Eagleson's progress for Derby has been halted by his back trouble which will necessitate surgery. Mark Patterson, too, has been held back by injury, and so unable to build upon his spectacular debut against South Africa A as long ago as 1996 when he took 6 for 80 in the first innings!
Back in the early 1980s Dermot Monteith also appeared for Middlesex in a number of Championship games, and he too managed a 5 wicket bag (5 for 68 against Northants at Northampton in 1981, in a match where he was selected along with John Emburey and Phil Edmonds, both then current England bowlers!), but his highest innings was 36 against Hampshire in 1982. Mark Cohen tried to force his way into the first-class game with both Glamorgan and Middlesex but, with the exception of the Dublin born but English raised Justin Benson, no Irish batsman had made the breakthrough for many years.
Joyce followed up with 40 not out in a National League match and a further 34 in the televised day-night game against Warwickshire, a knock which drew favourable comment from commentators including Bob Willis and Angus Fraser. By this stage I had determined to put pen to paper on this topic, but feared that I might put 'the spot' on him; however another 31 coming in at 22 for 3 on a none-too-easy track at Bristol in the current four day game quelled my concerns! What marks out Ed as being that bit better? There is no doubt that his talent has been recognised from an early stage; the Irish Cricket Annual of 1996 refers to the fact that on an Under 16 trip to Wales he had 'topped the batting averages and showed that he is definitely one for the future'. By 1998 and the Under 19 World Cup in South Africa he had scored 'tons' for both the Irish Schools and the Under 19s (in the Bermuda qualifying tournament). He had also made a successful international debut for the senior team in the 1997 Triple Crown series. By now Middlesex were clearly interested and he spent the latter part of both the 1997 and 1998 seasons with them. In 1999 he made both his one-day and Championship debuts for them, and those foundations are now being built upon.
Back in Ireland he is studying at Trinity College where he will enter his final year in October. If you get the chance next Spring go along to College Park if you are in Dublin and hope to see Ed bat. As a Trinity supporter I hope you see him bat a lot, as I was privileged to do when they played Pembroke in the Cup and The Hills in the Lewis Traub semi-final this year. His calm unruffled demeanour at the crease fools none of the local bowlers who now know him so well. Ed does not give up his wicket lightly, a characteristic in which the Joyce family follows in the Harrison footsteps; I can give little higher praise. Coincidentally, the four Harrison brothers who played for Ireland (Roy, Jim, Deryck and Garfield) are the only recent siblings to outnumber the Joyces (Ed preceding older brother Gus and younger brother Dom into the national XI). The Joyces have all managed the feat in the same year which the Waringstown connection didn't, though it must be pointed out that they could also number brother-in-law Eddie Bushe and his son Jonathan in their confraternity!
At the wicket Ed stands very still, seems to move quite late, but always appears to have time. There is a fierce but controlled determination, which his brothers also appear to possess. On first meeting Gus back in the Irish Development XI days I had been warned that some observers (I'll not say experts!) felt that he was too casual and didn't really care. They couldn't be wider of the mark; I have often wondered about what rules the Joyce family games were played under when they were learning at home in Bray for I'm sure that once you got to the crease you made sure to use your chance really well. I'm also led to believe that the female siblings are no mean players either.
Good luck for the remainder of this season Ed, and when you are reflecting in the winter and setting your goals for next year, you will have rather more complicated choices than many. Between Finals, ICC Trophy, DUCC aspirations, and back to Middlesex, life can be full of 'good' complications.