Joanne O’Riordan: Multi-sport talent Mary Waldron gearing up for South Africa

Ireland’s wicketkeeper had stellar football career but now a full-time cricket professional

On a CV that includes international football, club football, hockey, wicketkeeping, umpiring, and now professional cricket player for the Irish women’s team, not a lot could possibly faze Mary Waldron.

At the moment, she is Ireland’s top wicketkeeper, which would be impressive as it was, but is even more impressive given she only started cricket properly in her 20s and has earned well over 100 caps for Ireland.

Initially starting out as a footballer, Waldron’s career featured multiple caps for Ireland, representing Ireland at the World University Games, playing in a Uefa Women’s Cup with UCD and winning multiple FAI Women’s Cups. But cricket is a different ball game.

“I played soccer growing up,” Waldron explains. “So when I first started playing (cricket), my mom was like ‘It’s just rounders with cucumber sandwiches.’ So I guess that’s what people’s perceptions are. I think, you know, we’re working hard to change those perceptions. But if you ask anyone, they’d tell you cricket is too tricky, like, I just don’t understand that.


“So I think from an outsider’s point of view, they look at it and go, ‘we don’t actually know what’s going on’. But, you know, you’re literally hitting the ball, trying to score runs, but in, like, from a very basic level and two batters who are swapping ends, and you’re trying to hit the sticks, so it’s actually very simple. But in terms of tactics, then obviously, from a team point of view we’re trying to get people out. And we, you know, we have to figure, out the line, where we’re bowling, where our fielders go, and that’s where it could get complicated!”

Tactics are complicated but experience keeps her calm and she jokes she feels worse for making her teammates run after the ball if she misjudges a catch. From an outsider’s perspective, she rarely gets it wrong but as always, preparation is critical.

“You’d always prepare for certain things, and you get them [the opposition] out, but then we play them again in another series, and they’ve worked on that. So you need new plans. So the game is always evolving, and you’re trying to get better, certainly with T20. And there are a lot of change-ups with the bowling and different things that you’ve got to adapt to as a batter.

“So like that’s part of the enjoyment obviously for us is to try to get better, to be prepared for all those scenarios. Then from a batting point of view, obviously, you’ve got to combat those things and have your own plans and be really clear whilst knowing that if you make a mistake, you don’t get a second chance. That’s why it can be, you know, a mind game essentially. Cricket, along with a lot of elite sports is, 90 per cent of the head and 10 per cent of the body.”

South Africa are next for the Irish - the series starting on Friday at Sydney Parade - a challenging task but not one Waldron shies away from. With Ireland still missing captain Laura Delany, Gaby Lewis will lead Ed Joyce’s team with qualification points for the 2025 World Cup on the line. Due to injury and college or school exams, Joyce is without eight of his 20 senior performance squad members for the series. Despite all of this, Waldron is confident due to the last result against South Africa.

“The last time we played South Africa in a series at home, I’m pretty sure we drew, so we beat them in a T20. We also beat them in ODI the last time in Ireland, so I mean, I’m going into this series pretty confident. We’re on home soil, we’ve got a new group of players who are super excited to get going. We’re definitely an underdog, but we’re not, you know, out of sight by any means.

“Certainly, in the T20s, it’s generally closer, and the shorter format and you know someone has a good day, then happy days. We just want to pit ourselves against the best, which will hopefully propel us forward, just getting that level of experience in those games.

There are high standards and expectations, but one guarantee is that Waldron and co will continue to soar.

Ireland vs South Africa

1st T20I: Friday June 34d, Pembroke Cricket Club, 4.30pm

2nd T20I: Monday June 6th, Pembroke Cricket Club, 4.30pm

3rd T20I: Wednesday June 8th, Pembroke Cricket Club, 4.30pm

1st ODI: Saturday June 11th, Clontarf Cricket Club, 10.45am

2nd ODI: Tuesday June 14th, Clontarf Cricket Club, 10.45am

3rd ODI: Friday June 17th, Clontarf Cricket Club, 10.45am

All games can be watched live via Cricket Ireland’s streaming service