Leinster’s early dominance sets the bar for the rest to follow
Development of players like Eddie Richardson key to future success
Eddie Richardson has been in outstanding form for North County and the Leinster Lightning this season. Photograph: Barry Chambers/CricketEurope
Leinster Lightning duly wrapped up a full-points victory over the Northern Knights in their RSA Inter-Provincial Championship clash yesterday, with John Mooney taking the final wicket to seal an innings and 13 runs victory at College Park.
The margin of defeat, coming after just 30 minutes of play after the morning session was lost to rain, again showed off Leinster’s abundance of riches and backed up their tag of favourites in all three disciplines played in the series.
It hasn’t been the only one-sided victory for Kevin O’Brien’s side after they beat both the Knights and the North West Warriors in last Friday’s Twenty20 blitz at Sydney Parade and also after they recorded a very lopsided success against the North West side in their one-day game at Malahide.
Of course, Leinster will also need to keep up their form throughout the summer, having played all their games at home so far and the three-day competition looks set to go down to the last fixture, when they travel to play the Knights in August.
Cricket followers have been quick to highlight the gap in standards, but in many respects having one team leading the way in the standard of performance is no bad thing in the fledgling stages of the reintroduction of interprovincial competition.
If you take rugby as a benchmark, it was Munster’s dominance of the European game with Heineken Cup victories in 2006 and 2008 that drove Leinster to match them and indeed go one better with their three titles.
The development of a competitive interprovincial competition may take a year or two, but the benefits to the national team could be prove more immediate.
One player to hold his hand up has been Leinster’s Eddie Richardson, a first cousin of international all-rounder John Mooney. Awarded an interprovincial contract at the start of the summer, the 22-year-old North County player has transferred his great form at club level into the provincial side, impressing with both bat and ball.
Capped at Ireland ‘A’ over the last couple of years, Richardson has gone from a bowler who can handle himself with a bat to a genuine all-round talent.
Leinster Lightning player/coach Trent Johnston has certainly been impressed, even suggesting Richardson was unlucky not to be named in the Ireland squad for next week’s Intercontinental four-day match against the Netherlands in Deventer.
“I always knew that he had the ability to play, definitely at this level and even the level above. His performances have been very good, he’s one of the first on the team sheet at the moment,” said Johnston.
“Personally, from a Leinster Lightning point of view I’m slightly disappointed that he’s not in the team going to Holland because his club form and interprovincial form in my opinion warrants that.
“That’s obviously the decision made by the selectors above. But I think it’s been great for him and I think it’s been great for a number of guys that are on the fringes of making the next step up.”
With many of Irish cricket’s ‘golden generation’ having marked the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as a possible international swansong, it’s players like Richardson that will take up the mantle.
And for Johnston, the interprovincial series will be where the next generation cut their cricketing teeth and make the transition as smooth as possible. “It’s certainly achievable because now we have ladder in place, junior and club cricket, interprovincial cricket and Irish so there’s a good stepping stone for those guys to come through.”