Ireland's finest ever cricketer, Ed Joyce, brought it back home to the verdant surroundings of Merrion Cricket Club on Anglesea Road in Dublin on Thursday to confirm his retirement from international and representative cricket.
The 39-year-old left-handed batsman from Bray signs off after fulfilling his final cricketing ambition by playing for Ireland in the inaugural Test match against Pakistan at Malahide.
The good news is that Joyce’s huge experience will not be lost and he will take up a new role with Cricket Ireland as both a batting coach and also overseeing leadership development in the high-performance system.
And the former Middlesex and Sussex cricketer has not ruled out a possible return to playing club cricket in Leinster with either Merrion or Trinity in years to come, a warning that may hasten the retirement of a few aging bowlers.
For the moment Joyce will make a clean break from playing to rest some weary bones, and more importantly, he believes, make the break from being a professional cricketer to one who goes out with the goal of enjoyment.
Joyce admitted the goal of playing in Ireland’s first Test was the only thing to keep him going as he battled injuries and recuperated from operations in recent years.
“I had a bit of a wobble at Christmas where I thought I wanted to stop but I’m glad I was convinced to stay and play in Zimbabwe [at the World Cup qualifiers]. And then the Test match obviously – the crowning glory of Irish cricket’s last couple of years – to get to that stage, I was just really happy to be part of that and to play pretty well in the game as well.”
Joyce admitted there is little he would change in a cricketing career in which he scored almost 18,500 first-class runs at a more than healthy average of 48, including 47 first-class centuries and 92 half-centuries.
That includes his time with England, where his goal of playing Test cricket saw him break his Irish career in 2005 after helping Ireland qualify for its first World Cup in 2007 to his return at the 2011 tournament in Bangladesh and India. In all he won 151 Ireland caps and he bows out holding both the highest Ireland batting average of 40.82 and and the highest innings of 231.
All that experience will now be funnelled into the development of future Irish cricketers, with Joyce expecting to start in his new role next month.
“I’m really fortunate that Cricket Ireland have given me that opportunity,” said Joyce. “It’s till the end of the year, we can reassess and see if that’s working, if it’s doing what we both hoped it would and see where we go from there.”
Ireland captain William Porterfield made full use of Joyce's counsel on his return to the international side in 2011 and he led the tributes to his team-mate on Thursday.
“It is pretty hard to sum up in just a few words how much of an impact Ed has had on Irish cricket and how much of an all-round great person he is,” said Porterfield. “He is the person, from my era, that showed that being a professional cricketer was a tangible dream across the water. He inspired a whole generation to show that it is possible.
“He is someone that I have always looked up to and to have had the opportunity to play with him for the past few years has been an absolute privilege. He will be a great miss in the changing rooms, not only for his runs, but the person he is. A lot of us, not least the young lads, have learned so much from him.”
“He has had such an amazing career that he can be so proud of over the past 20 or so years. For it to culminate in taking the field for Ireland’s first ever Test match was the icing on the cake I’m sure. He has seen the transition from a completely amateur organisation into being a full member and professional.”
“I would like to thank him for everything he has ever done for me and Cricket Ireland. I wish him all the best in his next chapter and I’m sure I will look to draw on his knowledge as we continue to move forward.
Ireland coach Graham Ford admitted he was sad to see Joyce go as a player but delighted knowing that he will now be involved in a coaching capacity.
“It is always a sad occasion when a top-quality cricketer calls time on his career. Ed’s brilliant performance statistics show clearly what an outstanding player he has been,” said Ford
“Over the years cricketing fans have greatly enjoyed watching many a fine performance from Ed. Sadly his batting qualities will no longer be available to our national team.
“As the national team coach it is however very comforting to know that Ed’s vast cricketing knowledge and experience will still be a part of our system and will play a vital role in developing future Irish cricketing stars.”
An Ireland XI will take on Sussex in a Twenty20 game at Arundel Castle on Sunday June 24th as part of Joyce’s testimonial year at the county.