Cricket Ireland confirms first professional women’s contracts

Games vs South Africa, Pakistan and Australia plus Ed Joyce contract extension announced

Seven members of the Irish women's cricket team have been offered fully professional contracts, marking a significant first for the sport in this country. Home fixtures against South Africa, Pakistan and Australia have also been announced by Cricket Ireland, while head coach Ed Joyce has put pen to paper on a three year contract extension.

As was reported on Wednesday, players had the option to sign full or part-time deals according to their individual circumstances. Nine players have penned part-time deals in order to continue their education, while four others are on retainer contracts. The latter provide players loss of earnings and match fees, medical insurance as well as other benefits available to the whole squad such as strength and conditioning and psychology support. In total, all 20 members of the senior performance squad have been contracted.

Captain Laura Delany is among those to have signed a full-time contract. Notably, Delany's Leinster clubmate, Eimear Richardson, has been offered a full-time deal to return home after a stint playing with the Northern Districts in New Zealand. She is currently considering the offer.

Delany welcomed the news and was quick to praise the flexibility of the contract structure: “(It’s) absolutely amazing to be in a position where we’ve been offered full-time contracts or, for players who are in college or school, an educational contract.

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“It’s the first of its kind. I suppose what it’s going to give us an opportunity to do now is train every day and prioritise our skills, our recovery, our rehab and make sure we’re available for any series or tournaments that come up. We’re looking forward to starting.

“We qualified for the ICC championship back in November and we were the only team that qualified that wasn’t fully professional. It’s something we’ve been pushing for and Cricket Ireland have recognised that and increased our funding. We have a good few fixtures at home this summer so hopefully it’s the start of a very exciting four year cycle.”

Delany, Gaby Lewis, Leah Paul and Orla Prendergast and Richardson - if she signs - are all on two year contracts with the rest signing for one year. Kim Garth, who left the Ireland squad in 2020 to take up a professional contract in Australia, was not approached since she is contracted to Cricket Victoria.

The home international season will begin in June with a six match series against South Africa in Dublin. Starting on June 3rd, Pembroke Cricket Club in Sydney Parade will host three T20Is before three further One Day Internationals will be played in Clontarf. The latter three games begin Ireland’s campaign in the ICC Women’s Championship, a multi-year tournament that makes for a busier schedule, hence the need for full-time contracts.

A month later, Australia and Pakistan travel to Bready to compete in a T20 tri-series with Ireland. This will get underway on July 16th serve as preparation for the two visiting countries ahead of their participation in the Commonwealth Games.

A T20 World Cup qualifier as well as a tour to another full-member nation are also on the cards, though the dates will be announced at a later time.

Cricket Ireland confirmed the news on Thursday as part of an increased spending package of €1.5 million on the women’s game. This includes the new contracts, a full-time backroom staff to work alongside Joyce, equipment, match clothing, cost of fixtures as well as funds for the academy, domestic Super Series and grassroots pathways.

The Irish Times understands that no additional funding support from Sport Ireland, Sport Northern Ireland or the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been acquired solely to pay for the improved contracts beyond already existing packages. Cricket Ireland is lobbying for extra financial support from the ICC but it remains unclear when they will know if they have been successful.

Head coach Joyce, who is now committed to the role until 2025, explained how it was an easy decision to sign on once again. “I’m delighted to sign the contract, it was a no-brainer for me” he said. “I fell into the role a bit when I was a batting coach across the men’s and women’s game but I really wanted to do this job.

“It’s a slightly different arena since at that stage it wasn’t professional and initially it didn’t go that well, but I definitely saw enough in the skill level and ability of the players that stage and I was aware there were a good few younger players coming through. I love it, the commitment and ambition from the players is there and as long as that is there I’m keen to continue.”

International (full-time) contracts: Laura Delany, Shauna Kavanagh, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson (TBC), Mary Waldron.

Education (part-time) contracts: Ava Canning, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Jane Maguire, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Rebecca Stokell.

Non-retainer contracts: Rachel Delaney, Sarah Forbes, Hannah Little, Kate McEvoy.

South Africa series

3rd June : Ireland v South Africa 1st T20I (Pembroke)

6th June: Ireland v South Africa 2nd T20I (Pembroke)

8th June: Ireland v South Africa 3rd T20I (Pembroke)

11th June : Ireland v South Africa 1st ODI (Clontarf)

14th June: Ireland v South Africa 2nd ODI (Clontarf)

17th June: Ireland v South Africa 3rd ODI (Clontarf)

Summer tri-series

16th July: Australia v Pakistan T20I (Bready)

17th July: Ireland v Australia T20I (Bready)

19th July: Ireland v Pakistan T20I (Bready)

21th July: Ireland v Australia T20I (Bready)

23th July: Pakistan v Australia T20I (Bready)

24th July: Ireland v Pakistan T20I (Bready)