Photo Credit: Sportsfile
As the Ireland Women’s squad departs for Spain today ahead of their five-match series against Scotland, captain Laura Delany says she feels a sense of reinvigoration with the influx of younger talent that has come into the senior set-up in the last two years.
Delany, 30, is in her thirteenth year as an international cricketer, and in that time has played 95 T20Is and 54 ODIs, scored over 2,000 runs and taken 87 wickets. In August, Delany became Ireland Women’s most-capped player, with 185 appearances, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
The Leinster Cricket Club and Typhoons all-rounder was speaking ahead of departing for Spain.
“It’s been a long year, but one which has been brilliant as we have played an increasing amount of cricket in against some of the best sides in the world. Going to play against Scotland in Desert Springs will be a tough series, but we’re looking forward to getting over there for three ODIs and following that up with two T20Is. We haven’t played Scotland in an ODI format before, it’s their first-ever appearance in that format, but as a squad we’re ready and looking forward to it.
“The weather over there looks pretty good at the moment. We’ve been to Desert Springs a few times before – most recently back in January for a warm up camp ahead of the World Cup – but we haven’t actually played a series there. We know from centre-wicket sessions what the wicket might play like, plus we’ve watched some of the footage from when Scotland played there recently.
“We’re going over there to try and win every game. There’s certain KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that we’ve set for ourselves as a group – and if we try and execute and work on that, then hopefully the results should take care of themselves. It’s a great opportunity to get over there and play another series as a group. Freya Sargent comes into the attack, and so does Alana Dalzell. Alana played for Ireland last year against South Africa, but hasn’t really featured much this year, so it’ll be a brilliant opportunity for her to wear the green jersey if she gets the opportunity to do so over there.”
With the retirements of Mary Waldron and Shauna Kavanagh, Laura is now the most senior player by some distance:
“Yeah, obviously tricky to have Mary and Shauna retire within a couple of months of each other. I’ve grown up playing alongside Shauna and made my debut on the same day as Mary. I’ve travelled the world and had the opportunities to share some of our most successful wins and victories with both of them. It’s been a long journey with them, and it will definitely be strange taking to the pitch without them. But it’s an opportunity for other players now to take on more responsibility with the bat and ball.
“Obviously I’m pretty much the oldest person on the team now, which is going to take some time to get used to. I suppose surrounding yourself with younger players makes you feel a little bit younger, but it’s a lovely group, and I’m really enjoying playing alongside the players that I’m playing with at the moment.
“Also, I think the more players that are pushing for Ireland spots the better. Big performances in the Super Series throughout the summer means that you’re kept on your toes, and you always know that you need to put in good performances. That’s how the standard of the national team is going to get better. The more competition, the more you have to work harder to get better, and to make sure that you’re always ready to contribute. Competition is great. And when you know there’s someone else coming up behind you, it makes you work harder, particularly at training.
“With both Mary and Shauna retiring it makes you think about your own career and what’s next, and how long you want to continue playing for. However, I’m absolutely loving it at the moment, and I feel like I’ve got a new wave of energy with all the young players in the squad. I know I’m not going to be playing cricket for ever, so I want to enjoy every opportunity that I have to go out there and wear the green jersey, but also lead the team, which is a huge honour. To be on a professional contract where we can go in and train, working on our weaknesses and become better, both physically and mentally, and to try and improve our game as much as we can is something that I’m really relishing.
“Being on a full-time professional contract is something that, to be honest, I never thought would happen during my career. However, I’m very grateful that Cricket Ireland took the step forward, and it’s a brilliant move, not only for cricket here in Ireland but for also women’s sport in Ireland. To be able to wake up and go to training or go to the gym, and know that that’s your day-to-day job is amazing, because it it’s only going to help your game get better. As a player you want an opportunity to become the best version of yourself as an athlete, so that you can give 100% to the team, but more importantly to contribute when the team need it.”
How would she look back on 2023?
“2023 has been a year of mixed results. We won the Netherlands series, which was brilliant. We had a good series against Australia – maybe not in terms of results – but things that we’ve been working on as a squad, and seeing some younger players go out and take on real ownership with the bat and ball. We were obviously slightly disappointed to have come so close against the West Indies over in the Caribbean and to not pull off a win or two. We genuinely believed going out there that we could have done that, and with a few games coming down to the last over shows just how much growth and progress that we’ve made as a team.
“Overall I think the team are definitely heading in the right direction – we’ve obviously got a big year ahead in 2024, starting with Zimbabwe in January. That will be a great series – we really enjoyed playing in Harare the last time we went over. It was very competitive.
“It’s always good to play against teams in and around ourselves, and we’re obviously going to go out there and go out with the attitude that we want to win every game. However, playing in different conditions brings different challenges, but it will be a great series ahead of the T20 World Cup qualifiers.
“Then we have a big home summer to look forward to. For us as a squad it’s something that we definitely have in the back of our minds. We’re thinking in training sessions about the possibility of who we might face and what we need to work on to make sure that we’re ready for that in about eight months’ time, because it all creeps up very quickly. It’s also great for Irish cricket that we have two of the best sides in the world coming over to play against us at home.”
One-Day Internationals (ODIs):
17 October: Ireland Women v Scotland Women – 1st ODI (Desert Springs; starts 10.45am local time)
19 October: Ireland Women v Scotland Women – 2nd ODI (Desert Springs; starts 10.45am local time)
21 October: Ireland Women v Scotland Women – 3rd ODI (Desert Springs; starts 10.45am local time)
T20 International (T20Is):
23 October: Ireland Women v Scotland Women – 1st T20I (Desert Springs; starts 2pm local time)
24 October: Ireland Women v Scotland Women – 2nd T20I (Desert Springs; starts 2pm local time)
Ireland Women’s squad
Laura Delany (captain), Ava Canning, Alana Dalzell, Georgina Dempsey, Amy Hunter, Arlene Kelly, Gaby Lewis, Louise Little, Joanna Loughran, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Orla Prendergast, Freya Sargent, Rebecca Stokell.
Scotland Women’s squad
Kathryn Bryce (captain), Olivia Bell, Sarah Bryce, Darcey Carter, Priyanaz Chatterji, Maryam Faisal, Lorna Jack, Ailsa Lister, Abtaha, Maqsood, Megan McColl, Hannah Rainey, Niamh Robertson-Jack, Nayma Sheikh, Ellen Watson.