Cricket in Ireland
Cricket is a long-established sport in Ireland. Cricket is governed by Cricket Ireland, which maintains the Ireland cricket team and Ireland women's cricket team. Following the team's success in the 2007 Cricket World Cup, the sport increased its popularity in Ireland. Ireland is an associate member of the International Cricket Council and plays in tournaments like the World Cricket League and ICC Intercontinental Cup, which are qualifying rounds for associate teams for the Cricket World Cup and ICC World Twenty20. Ireland qualified for the 2009 ICC World Twenty20, the 2011 Cricket World Cup and 2010 ICC World Twenty20. In the 2011 World Cup, they beat England in the group matches.
"The English are not very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity" – George Bernard Shaw
Cricket was introduced to Ireland by the British in the towns of Kilkenny and Ballinasloe in the early 19th century. In the 1830s, the game began to drop down; many of the clubs which were founded in the following 30 years are still in existence today. The first Irish national team played in 1855 against an English national team in Dublin. In the 1850s, the Englishman Charles Lawrence was responsible for developing the game in Ireland through his coaching. In the 1850s and 1860s, Ireland was visited for the first time by touring professional teams. Ireland's first match against Marylebone Cricket Club – the M.C.C. – was in 1858.
The game increased in popularity until the early 1880s. Two issues then effected the popularity of cricket and cricketers in Ireland. The first was the outbreak of the Land Wars resulting from the mistreatment of tenants by absentee landlords when landlord and tenant were alienated. The second was a ban placed on the playing of "foreign" games by the Gaelic Athletic Association, which was not lifted until 1970. Anyone playing foreign games such as cricket would be banned from the extremely popular Irish games of hurling and Gaelic football as it was popularly referred to as a 'garrison game' enjoyed primarily by the occupying British forces and the landowning Protestant oligarchy they protected. Irish teams toured Canada and the USA in 1879, 1888, 1892, and 1909. On top of this, Ireland defeated a touring South African side in 1904. Their first match with first-class status was played on 19 May 1902 against a London County side including W.G. Grace. The Irish, captained by Sir Tim O'Brien, lost convincingly by 238 runs.
The 2005 ICC Trophy was hosted by Ireland.
The Irish Cricket Union (ICU) – the governing body of Irish cricket – was officially founded in 1923, although its predecessor had been active since 1890. In 2007, it announced major changes in order to bring it in-line with the main cricket governing bodies. After the World Cup, Irish cricket experienced a dip in success with poor results in the 2007 Friends Provident Trophy as many players were unavailable. The Irish cricket team was – and still is – an amateur side and most of the players had full-time jobs with commitments conflicting with cricket. After the World Cup there were delays in paying the players which resulted in them ignoring the press in protest to their treatment after an Intercontinental Cup match against Kenya.
Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of the ICU, has stated that it wants to "seek actively to place Irish players into top-level cricket, by developing relationships with [especially] county cricket which will incorporate appropriate player release for Irish international duty, and feeder systems for developing Irish cricketers". The reorganised ICU's sought to make closer links with the English counties, encourage the development of age group cricket, and to introduce a professional element into the Irish game. They also want to take the Irish cricket team on winter tours more often. In an attempt to prevent the game losing players to counties or other commitments such as jobs, it was suggested that central contracts should be introduced, however this never came to fruition.
English county competition
Ireland, along with Scotland, has at times played in competitions for English county cricket sides, including the Benson & Hedges Cup and the Friends Provident Trophy (previously the C&G Trophy). Since there is no nationality restriction in county cricket, non-Irish players have competed for Ireland in these matches. For example, Hansie Cronje of South Africa competed for Ireland in the 1997 Benson & Hedges Cup, and more recently New Zealander Jesse Ryder played for Ireland in 2007. In 2004 Ireland beat Surrey by five wickets in the C&G Trophy.
For the 2006 season, the C&G Trophy was reorganised to include a round-robin stage instead of being entirely knock-out. Whereas Ireland had only one match guaranteed in the tournament before, they now had more fixtures against English county sides. For the 2006 tournament, they were bolstered by the signings of Saqlain Mushtaq and Shahid Afridi, the two overseas players they were allowed when competing in English domestic competitions. Ireland recorded one win in their nine matches. Their victory was over Gloucestershire on 30 April by 47 runs.
The C&G Trophy changed its name to Friends Provident Trophy for the 2007 season. In 2007, Ireland played in the Friends Provident Trophy against nine English county sides. Of those nine matches, they lost six and the remaining three matches were abandoned due to rain. They finished bottom in the South Conference of the trophy. For the 2008 season, the round-robin section of the trophy was changed from two divisions to three; Ireland were in the newly formed Midlands Division. In 2008, Ireland played eight games in the Midlands Division, winning one match with one no result and six losses. They finished fifth in the division which had five teams. Ireland's four wicket victory over Warwickshire on 16 May was Ireland's first win in the competition against a county side for two years. Captain William Porterfield anchored the innings with 69 runs.
Dublin-born batsman Ed Joyce has played with some success as part of Ireland's ICC Trophy team and is now a key member of the Sussex side in England's County Championship; he also previously captained Middlesex in the 2004 season. He has also played for England. Talented batsman Eoin Morgan who earlier represented Ireland in tournaments including the ICC World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20 qualified and now plays for England, making no secret of his desire to play Test cricket. Former Ireland seamer Boyd Rankin also joined England later to play at the highest level much to deteriorate the growth of Irish cricket. Meanwhile, Ireland is on its way to join as 11th Test playing nation in the world through Intercontinental cup 2015 - 2017. The winner of the tournament will play the 10th ranked team in the world by then, on a home and away series basis which consists of two tests each series. If Ireland(providing if they are the Intercontinental champions) win the series, they will join the elite club of test playing nations.
The Inter-Provincial Series ('Interpros') was introduced for the first time in 2013 as part of Cricket Ireland's strategy to attain Test status by 2020. It features teams from Leinster, The North and The North West. Munster were not included in the initial seasons as they will need to continue to focus on expanding their club system and developing their talent pool.
The multi-day competition is called the Inter-Provincial Championship. It does not yet have First Class status, but has all the groundwork for elevation to such status once Ireland become a Full Member.
The 20 over competition is called the Inter-Provincial Trophy. Once again, it does not yet have official Twenty20 status, but has all the groundwork for elevation to such status once Ireland become a Full Member.
Contracts and Eligibility
In a Cricket Ireland press release, Richard Holdsworth explained the process for the provinces to award contracts for the Interpros. He said that each team would be allowed to award sixteen contracts. These contracts would not involve regular salaries for reasons of budget, but they would include match fees and help with expenses such as travel and gym memberships.
To be eligible for a contract, a player must either be an Irish national or play for an Irish club in one of the five cricketing provinces. Holsworth said that the Interpros should provide a direct pathway into the Ireland side, but that retired internationals like Nigel Jones and Albert van der Merwe would still be eligible. Teams are allowed to play up to two non-Irish nationals in the Championship matches.
Each province would first have the opportunity to sign players from their own province, such as a Leinster-based player playing for Leinster, but players would also be able to play for non-local provinces if they preferred. He also said that provinces would be allowed to bring in players from outside their squads who are excelling in club cricket.
Club cricket is organised on a provincial basis, with each of four provinces – Leinster, Munster, Northern and North West – organising its own senior leagues and cups. Since 1982, the Irish Cricket Union has organised the Irish Senior Cup on an all-Ireland basis.
International Cricket Grounds
There are four international cricket venues in Ireland that have been approved by the International Cricket Council to host international cricket.
- Castle Avenue, Dublin – the ground hosted a match in 1999 Cricket World Cup between Bangladesh vs. West Indies
- Civil Service Cricket Club Ground, Belfast – the ground hosted Ireland's first ODI in 2006
- Malahide Cricket Club Ground, Malahide – the ground is the biggest cricket venue in Ireland with capacity of 10,000
- Bready Cricket Club Ground, Magheramason - the ground got international status in 2015.
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- Official website of Cricket Ireland
- Official Facebook page of Cricket Ireland
- Cricket Europe Ireland Page
- Irish and Associates Cricket magazine
- North County Cricket Club, Dublin, Ireland
- Sandyford Cricket Club: Google Earth plugin, cricket grounds in Ireland