Interpro movement

Cricket Ireland have yet to officially announce the four regional squads of 12 but are expected to do so quite soon. Some moves have already come out with the most high profile being Munster getting at least a trio of internationals in the shape of Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany and Tyrone Kane.

I was worried they would be given very little in terms of proven quality but while the distribution isn’t exactly equal, it’s better than I originally thought last week.

There’s no doubt it’s a tough balancing act with playing strength and province identity. I’m certain there will be a few iterations needed as the tournament progresses. Will it be able to get under way as scheduled in May?

The NI government are being cautious in easing lockdown measures, while the South are if anything seemingly more reticent to take the handbrakes off. Can we really envisage a start in 10 weeks to 50-over interpro matches?

Still let us be optimistic as the evenings stretch and the temperature rises slowly but surely..

Emerging Interpros

The establishment of a formal tournament for the Emerging Interpros is a welcome development. It’s going to be a significant investment – albeit from money saved by not having first-class matches – with teams reported to be getting at least ten matches or more.

That is plenty of opportunity for the next generation to make an impression on the selectors, and hopefully there will be a few talents that emerge from it.

Women still waiting

While last week brought welcome news of home series against South Africa and Zimbabwe, plus away games in The Netherlands as well as two T20Is in England/Wales against Pakistan, there has been no announcement yet on any matches for Ireland Women.

They are due to play in a 50-over World Cup Qualifier in Sri Lanka in July, but at the minute it’s been 985 days and counting since they last played in a 50-over contest, and 534 days since any competitive game at all.

Covid of course accounts for some of this, and Cricket Ireland have been striving without much success to get games arranged for Laura Delany’s side.

There were plans for a 50-over series in Spain soon, but that looks increasingly unlikely as the season approaches and no announcements. While quarantine restrictions around Covid are difficult enough for professional sides, they are nigh on impossible for a predominantly amateur side with only a handful of part-time contracts among them.

Finance in women’s cricket is certainly an issue, with the top three sides England, Australia and New Zealand investing heavily and reaping the rewards. The gap between the top sides is widening and going to be extremely difficult to narrow.

Given that Ireland Women’s contracts are worth approximately 7% of that spent on the men, perhaps a target increase in the coming years would go to improving that, and making it a more equal distribution?

Cricket Ireland are this week advertising for a replacement Director. It seems a great opportunity for the Board to make headway towards Sport Ireland’s desire to have 30% female representation. CI currently has two out of twelve, so a third would take them to 25%.

Staffing issues

Cricket Ireland have experienced a few issues with staff turnover in recent times. Part of the problem is no doubt the cost of living in Dublin, where rent/home ownership prices are exorbitant.

Surely it would make more sense for new hires to live in Belfast? If for example bowling coach Stuart Barnes works five days a week, then he could spend one night a week in a hotel in Dublin which would allow him to coach on a Monday and Tuesday there. On Wednesday and Thursday he would coach in Belfast, then on a Friday drive to Bready.

Rental prices in Belfast are between 33 and 50% less than Dublin. To use the word of the year in Irish cricket circles – a Belfast ‘hub’ would seem to make more sense from a financial point of view and go a long way to solving employment woes.

Ground for concern

There has been no news on progress, or should that be lack of progress at Abbotstown. I thought there might be some plans coming out of recent Board meetings but the silence has been deafening apart from the odd plea for money, when explaining the costs and realities of Test cricket at home.

Next week it will be three years since Cricket Ireland announced plans to develop a new stadium at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus in Abbotstown, Dublin.

Irish cricket's governing body previously supported a €6m redevelopment of Malahide, which would have included a new pavilion with television and media facilities, and 1,500 permanent seats.

But in February 2018, following a consultant’s report, they decided they needed their own purpose-built stadium to accommodate a growing fixture list as part of the FTP.

The first phase of the project was completed and opened in August 2018 - a training facility of five artificial and 16 grass wickets, a fielding area and bowling machines, costing in total €700,000, was part-funded by the Government, Sport Ireland, ICC and Denis O’Brien.

Phase two featuring changing facilities, meeting spaces, performance analysis area and a player zone was to be completed by 2020, but it appears that this deadline hasn’t been met. “Work on a stadium is happening behind the scenes. We have to identify potential sources of funding and that’s a work in progress,” said CEO Warren Deutrom in 2018.

With a turnover around €10 million, then maybe set aside 5% each year to go towards the stadium? There’s no doubt that the development of a stadium is a long-term project, but they have to start somewhere. As seen with Malahide, five years can become ten, and then 15 with little to show.

I have to confess that I wouldn’t be too disappointed if the stadium never happened. It’s hard to beat the ground and village of Malahide on a sunny day. Plenty to do and a showcase for Irish cricket in a lovely setting, rather than a soulless outpost.