Photo Credit: Sportsfile
The 2022 Men’s Inter-Provincial Series starts tomorrow, 3 May 2022, with a 50-over Inter-Provincial Cup clash between the reigning cup-holders Leinster Lightning and the North West Warriors at Pembroke Cricket Club.
Leinster Lightning have won the previous eight Inter-Provincial Cup (IP50) titles, while the North-West Warriors are the current T20 (IP20) Trophy holders.
The Inter-Provincial Series is the peak domestic men’s cricket competition in Ireland, which takes a best v best approach in supporting the pathway to the national side.
As we head into what is the biggest-ever home international programme, with the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia in October, the performance in the Inter-Provincial Series is crucial for players aspiring to be part of the international squad.
MEET THE TEAMS
Leinster Lightning are the reigning IP50 Cup holders, and will go in the new competition as favourites to hold on to the trophy. With the likes of Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Josh Little, Simi Singh, Lorcan Tucker, Barry McCarthy and Peter Chase on the books, head coach Nigel Jones has plenty of talent to call upon.
Balbirnie’s consistency, combined with imperious middle-order batting of Dockrell in recent seasons (top run-scorer with 364 runs in six matches in 2021), along with the world-class bowling of Little and McCarthy (who took 17 wickets in the IP50 in 2021) makes the team in blue the side to beat once more. The Leinster side also has the services of Harry Tector, who joins the Lightning from the Northern Knights, and if Tector can transfer his recent international form to the domestic scene then silverware is within reach. The only area that Jones’ side will need to improve on from last year is its T20 performances, but the head coach is confident his side can rectify that in 2022.
Leinster Lightning head coach Nigel Jones said:
“Excitement is probably the main feeling around the group at the moment. It’s been a long winter for many reasons. We’ve had guys away touring with Ireland, players coming back from injuries and we’re still in the process of that.
“We’ve had a wider squad training now for a number of months and it’s been good for players to iron out what’s working in the game and what’s not. Looking back at last season, some areas there to approve, and although it gets to a point where you can do as much work off the field, it’s now about trying to transfer that into matches.
“The exciting part now is we’re basically on the doorstep of the season, with next Tuesday’s game against the Warriors at Pembroke. We come into that game off the back of two recent friendlies, against the Reds and the Knights, where the boys got some time in the middle as a batting group, and bowlers got some loads back up and match intensity, which was great. We saw some promising signs from our bowlers in those games as well, and we’re looking to take that in now and make sure the attitude’s there and we’re ready for game one of the season.
“From a Leinster perspective, it’s about the brand of cricket we keep playing and the positivity and the manner in which we do. We speak about that often as a group, about playing our way and trying to adapt to situations as best we can what’s presented in front of us. That’s the important part as cricketers is that we have that adaptability and have the attitude right every single time we take the field, and we’re looking to be no different this year we hope that the Leinster faithful will get behind the team and appreciate just how much work goes in by the guys. We realise there’s a bit of legacy there, in terms of the Leinster Lightning group and the players that have gone before. We often look at it from the point of view about writing the next chapter. With some restructuring 12-15 months ago and the distribution of players from Leinster across the competition, it’s certainly added that bit of spice and made things a lot more competitive, which is great.
“Last year we were probably left a little light, in the T20 format especially, so we’ve managed to get Greg Ford to come in. I’m excited to see what he will bring. We had a taste of what his game is about in 2020 and I liked what I saw there, and we’ll get to see that again this summer. Also, Harry Tector gets to pull on the Leinster Lightning shirt at senior men’s level for the first time and we’re excited for him. It’s something that I know he’s been very keen to get the opportunity to do and we as a squad are obviously delighted to have him around the group. I’m hoping the Leinster supporters can get in behind Harry and the team this year and we can make them proud with our performances. That’s the exciting challenge we face as a group.
“Expectations-wise, we’ll take each game as it comes, and we’ll try and play as good and aggressive brand of cricket as we can. If we do that right then we put ourselves in a great position to be around the silverware towards end of the competition, and that will be no different this year.
“Of the young players to watch, Gavin Hoey last year showed he was an exciting young leg spinner, he came into the squad and showed what he could do. His ball-striking with the bat was impressive at North Down in the last T20 Festival of the year and he’s worked incredibly hard this winter on taking his game right again. I’ve certainly seen the benefit of that time and effort that he’s put in so I’m looking forward to seeing what he can give. Tim Tector as well, a young player Irish Under-19s captain had a taste of things for us last year and will get further opportunities this one. The important thing about the Inter-Pros is creating opportunities for these young guys where they get to learn more about their game. It’s about taking the opportunities presented and finding out about your game, making the most of those opportunities when you’re young and that’s how you grow and develop, and we’re looking forward to seeing his development again during this summer period. The boys are now ready, so roll on next Tuesday.”
Captain of the Lightning George Dockrell said:
“I’m very excited to get back underway for another season with the Lightning and try to defend the one-day title we won last season, whilst also competing for the T20 title. We’ve got a really nice team, hugely boosted by the arrival of Harry Tector, coming to the Lightning for his first season. He’s obviously someone who’s good friends with most of the guys in the squad so we’re very excited to have him on board, and what he’s going to be able to bring into the group.
“We also have a couple of young guys, like Tim Tector, who had a good under-19 world cup and I’m excited to see how he transitions and takes that experience into this summer. Gavin Hoey as well is definitely someone that’s impressed from last summer, plus also over the winter and the hard yards he’s put in. We’re excited for him and to see how he goes this year. We’ve got a nice group, with a couple of those younger guys and we’ve obviously got a lot of experience throughout the rest of the team. It’s always a tough competition as the games come thick and fast when we do hit the ground, but we’re really looking forward to getting stuck into it and hopefully starting well in that first game.”
George Dockrell (captain) (Phoenix), Andrew Balbirnie (Pembroke), Peter Chase (Malahide), Greg Ford (Balbriggan), Gavin Hoey (Pembroke), Josh Little (Pembroke), Barry McCarthy (Pembroke), David O’Halloran (Malahide), Simi Singh (YMCA), Harry Tector (YMCA), Tim Tector (YMCA), Lorcan Tucker (Pembroke).
North West Warriors
The North West Warriors have a new head coach for 2022, with former Ireland international Boyd Rankin replacing Gary Wilson (who has joined up with Heinrich Malan’s Ireland Senior men’s coaching staff). Captain Andy McBrine, along with former Ireland captain William Porterfield and Craig Young bring a wealth of experience to the Warriors side, who have a similar-looking squad to last year. In the 50-over Cup, they will look to Porterfield and McBrine for runs once more (Porterfield scored 258 runs in 2021, including a century against the Munster Reds, while McBrine contributed 188 runs for an average of 37). As for the bowlers, the Warriors will rely heavily on McBrine, Craig Young, Graham Hume and left-arm spinner Graham Kennedy. The Warriors are the reigning T20 Trophy champions, and with Shane Getkate, Porterfield, Stephen Doheny, William McClintock big scores – and big sixes – are on the cards.
North West Warriors head coach Boyd Rankin said:
“I’m really looking forward to getting the season started. It’s been a long winter for quite a few of the guys, obviously, some have been away with the Irish Senior team and the Wolves side, but most of the lads have been working really hard here at Bready. We’ve been very lucky in that we’ve been able to train on grass for the last couple of weeks – a big thanks to Bready Cricket Club for that. We just want to get the season started now. We’ve got a big game coming up next week down in Dublin against the Lightning. It’s always a tough start for us but we’ve got a really good squad, quite a good blend of experience and youth, so I’ve got high expectations for the season ahead.
“There’s a lot of cricket to be played, and at the end of the day we just want to see some great cricket being played by all four provincial teams. It’s what we’ve got now to try and produce the next batch of Irish cricketers, so it’s really important that these 48 players – the best 48 players in the country – are playing against one another week in, week out, training full-time and trying to be as professional as possible. The Inter-Pros are a massively important part of that – It’s the breeding ground for Irish cricketers now. Obviously, we miss county cricket, there are a lot of us in the previous generation that came through the county scene, to play and train on very good quality pitches, and facilities day in, day out and learned their trade from that. It’s now just adjusting to the fact that these younger lads have to do that based in Ireland. Our training facilities, our match pitches, everything has to be as good as it possibly can. The better quality pitches will produce better quality games and in turn will produce higher-quality cricketers. It’s massively important, and it’s trying to get as much cricket into these guys as possible, whether it’s Inter-Pros or the Wolves, it’s trying to keep that conveyor belt going for the full senior side.
“It’s going to be very similar to what it was last year. Under Gary (Wilson) we played very positive cricket and it’s going to be no different this year. We’ve basically got the same core squad as last year so there’s not much change in that regard. It will basically be go out and express yourselves as much as possible, play with freedom and just enjoy it. Gary did a good job last year in setting that up and it’s for me now to continue on with that and try to bring through a few youngsters. The future’s bright for the Warriors, with some very good young cricketers coming through, such as Scott Macbeth and Gavin Roulston, who are two very young exciting cricketers, both 16-17 years old so they’ve got a big future ahead of them. I’ll be helping them to hopefully get into that senior environment as much as possible.”
Andy McBrine (captain) (Donemana), Stephen Doheny (Merrion), Shane Getkate (Instonians), Graham Hume (Waringstown), Graham Kennedy (CIYMS), Ryan Macbeth (Brigade), William McClintock (Donemana), Nathan McGuire (Rush), Conor Olphert (Bready), William Porterfield (Formby), Jared Wilson (Newbuildings), Craig Young (North Down).
The Northern Knights suffered a blow last week with the news that New Zealand-born Luke Georgeson would no longer be part of their core squad. It’s still to be determined who will replace him in the Knights squad, but under new captain Mark Adair, expect a strong showing from the Knights in 2022. The Knights finished runners-up in the T20 Trophy last year, but disappointed in the 50-over cup, winning just the one game. They will rely heavily on their captain along with Paul Stirling, when available – while the young talent like Neil Rock, Josh Manley and Ben White (who took 17 wickets in the T20 Trophy in 2021), will be expected to step up even further in 2022.
Northern Knights head coach Simon Johnston said:
“This season was always going to be a year of resetting after the loss of three core players – Harry Tector, Graeme McCarter, and David Delany. They have played a huge part for us over the past number of years, and we would like to thank them greatly for their efforts. We also wish them all the best in their future endeavours.
“With Mark Adair taking over the captaincy, along with the addition of Josh Manley, we have had tremendous energy and enthusiasm throughout the winter training and our focus has been on increasing the skills and experience of our emerging players outside of the core 12 for our longer-term planning. We’re excited to see a number of these guys pushing for places in the senior XI already ahead of time.
“The players have been very lucky to have the help and guidance of Marc Ellison and Ian Butler in assistant coaching roles and the quality of the coaching these two have added is a huge plus for the NCU and Cricket Ireland.
“Unfortunately, the news during the week of Luke’s (Georgeson) decision and with Paul Stirling only being available for the first two games of the year, we’ve had to press the reset button slightly – but with challenge comes opportunity, and I’m excited to see some of the guys from outside the core 12 step up to the challenge and showcase their skills.
“We have a number of players to look out for this year but I’m especially looking forward to Matthew Foster and Ross Adair, who have both worked extremely hard over winter juggling full-time jobs along with their training, so hopefully they can have great years and be rewarded for their efforts.”
Northern Knights captain Mark Adair said:
“This season is going to be bit of an exciting one for me on a personal note, my first senior role in captaincy. It’ll be new to me, and I hope the lads that I am captaining don’t get too frustrated and then they can enjoy playing with me and hopefully that’ll be good. Being named captain of the team where I’m from, there’s a huge amount of pride involved. I grew up in the system, and that to me is very important.
“In terms of expectations for the team, I’m trying to keep our expectations realistic while still having ambitions to come away with a trophy at the end of the year – it’s something that we’re definitely capable of.
“I do think there are guys in our who can push on and challenge for international honours. We’ve got quite an exciting line-up in our T20s squad in particular. Having someone like Ross Adair who can come in and either open the innings, get us off the flyer or build that little bit deeper down and offer a bit of power. That’s pretty exciting for us to have and makes balancing the team a lot easier whenever you have someone like him who can bat in so many different roles.
“As for young players to watch out for, you’re probably looking at someone like Matthew Humphreys who was great for the Ireland Under-19s. Unfortunately, we’ve lost Cian Robertson, out to a dislocated shoulder playing against the Warriors in a warm-up game last week, but hopefully, he can turn the corner and be available for the tail-end of the season, which would be massive for us. Two very talented left-arm spinners, and hopefully we’ll see them go head to head throughout the year.”
Mark Adair (captain) (CIYMS), Ross Adair (CIYMS), Matthew Foster (CSNI), Matthew Humphreys (Lisburn), Jeremy Lawlor (Carrickfergus), Josh Manley (Lisburn), James McCollum (Waringstown), Ruhan Pretorius (Woodvale), Neil Rock (Rush), Paul Stirling (North Down), Ben White (CSNI). One addition to be made.
The Munster Reds may have finished bottom of both the T20 Trophy and the 50-over cup in 2021, but the gap was very close and better late-season results may have seen the Reds finish above their more-fancied opponents. However, in 2022 they will have the addition of Kevin O’Brien and David Delany to their squad – and with Curtis Campher, Murray Commins, Gareth Delany, Tyrone Kane, Michael Frost, Fionn Hand, Matt Ford (who was the top run-scorer in the T20 Trophy in 2021 with 220 runs), and captain PJ Moor also in their squad, the Reds will be keen for a change in their fortunes in 2022.
Munster Reds head coach Ted Williamson said:
“I’m really excited more than ever with the team that we have. With the new lads Kevin (O’Brien) and David (Delany) we now have a lot of bases covered when it come to our options with batting and bowling. We probably punched above our weight last year without some of our bigger players, and to have our Irish internationals back, plus some new guys in the side trying to prove a point in different ways and reasons, it’s going to be really powerful for us and I’m hoping for good things this year.
“The Inter-Pros are really important for the players. There were more close games last year. Previously Leinster was in the driving seat a lot and that’s not good for them or for the other provinces. When you look at the line-ups in all the teams, the Lightning will still be favourites for obvious reasons, but the other teams are a lot closer now. It’s better for the players, selectors and the coaches to see the players under pressure and the more tight games we have the better. As a selection tool it’s invaluable, and also from a coaching perspective to see your players playing top-quality cricket day in day out against good players is all you can ask for, because that’s where they’re going to learn most.
“From a Munster perspective we’ve great depth in our batting, and we’ve got a fairly good seam attack so those two areas, in general, would be areas that would be key for us. Our fielding unit is really good this year as well, it’s more rounded and you’ve more people that you can have in different positions. We’re just looking for guys to kick on from last year. We had some guys that performed last year, they need to kick on and we have others who have points to prove for different reasons. Ultimately it doesn’t matter what motivates people. The great thing about us is that there’s a great team ethos there, everybody plays for each other, it’s all about the success of the team, the success of the lads you’re playing with. That was evident last year. I think it will be more of the same, but with a bit more depth and a bit more firepower with the batting and the seam bowling.
“Two of our younger lads, Mike Frost and David Delany could be ones to look out for this year. Mike broke through last year, got into the Wolves side, while David was injured for a bit. If they kick on they can start pushing the lads above them, there’s no doubt about that. Mike showed when under pressure in crucial games that he can bowl to the best of them, and we know what David’s like. He’s a thoroughbred, as good as anybody on his day, if not better. I’m looking forward to seeing how they go, plus some of our senior guys pushing on from last year and maybe being a bit more consistent.”
Munster Reds captain PJ Moor said:
“We are all very excited to get the ball rolling. I think it’s great that the provincial games are concentrated between early May and the end of July. If we manage to start well it allows the team to maintain some good momentum going into all provincial cricket.
“I’m really excited about our Munster line-up. We have a strong group of players, and I am confident that we will gel together well and be serious contenders in both formats. Last year we were unfortunately plagued by injuries but thankfully all our players are fit for the start of the season. Having Kevin O’Brien join us will bolster our line-up, and along with Curtis Campher, Tyrone Kane, and Gareth Delany, we have a good core group of players. Not only do they bring a wealth of international experience, but they have also played many years in these conditions.
“Murray Commins and Matt Ford were brilliant for Munster last year and it’s no surprise they were both rewarded with Wolves call ups over the winter. They are both very important players in our line up and I’m sure they will be looking to repeat what they did last year.
“I think Mike Frost has been a very good find for Munster, he is a very smart bowler beyond his years. He’s always looking to improve and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he goes this summer. Dave Delany has also joined Munster this year and that gives us that “X” factor with the ball which is always nice to have as a captain.
“From a personal note, it’s a huge honour for me to be asked to captain Munster this season and I am thoroughly looking forward to the challenges it brings, and the responsibility. We have a fantastic management team and coaching staff who have created a very enjoyable environment at Munster which I feel gets the best out of players. Of course, winning games helps maintain that happy space and we will certainly be looking to hit the ground running come the 5th of May!”
PJ Moor (captain) (Clontarf), Tyrone Kane (Merrion), Murray Commins (The Hills), Curtis Campher (YMCA), David Delany (Clontarf), Gareth Delany (Leinster), Michael Frost (Malahide), Matt Ford (Malahide), Fionn Hand (Clontarf), Liam McCarthy (Railway Union), Kevin O’Brien (Railway Union), Michael O’Reilly (Malahide).
FOLLOW THE SERIES
Some fans in a number of Asian countries will be able to watch the Inter-Pros through the Fancode app. The livestream production will once again be provided by HBV Studios.