Joyce, Johnston, Bray and Rao
THE Ireland women had an excellent day on Sunday, winning the English County Championship Division 2 T20 title.
It puts them in the top rank next season where they will face some of the best players in the world.
That won’t faze Isobel Joyce though, who is one of the world’s best herself.
The new ICC rankings have her at 15th in batting and 14th in bowling – and she’s the only player to make the top 15 on both tables.
After a tough winter of training and travel in the lead up to the World T20 ‘Izzy’ took a summer holiday from the international scene and opted to play alongside the men on Merrion’s 2nd team.
“Playing a full season wouldn’t have been possible before”, she told Inside Edge as she waited to bat in the relegation vitaller on Monday.
“I took the summer off more because of work. We had a very heavy winter and I needed to step back.
“But I learned a lot playing with the men’s teams.”
Joyce made an excellent 82 against Rush last month and also claimed one of this season’s prize scalps in Fintan McAllister. She even won promotion to the all-conquering first team.
“Lots of women are now playing on men’s teams – 16 played this summer so far – and it’s becoming more normal.
“I’ve noticed that the players who went to the World Cup have developed the confidence to compete.
“We did a lot of work facing faster bowlers so we have a lot more weapons in our armoury now.”
Joyce returned for the weekend’s games, slipping easily into the groove when making 51no against Staffordshire. Ireland then dominated a strong side Somerset who included England star Anya Shrubsole, with Joyce scoring 40 and taking 3-6.
She was impressed at how much her team had come on in a summer in which they finished just one win off promotion from Division 2 of the 50-over championship.
“TJ puts a big onus on taking responsibility for your game, and it was lovely to see how so many of them had developed that maturity to set their own fields for example.”
“Without Clare Shillington and myself, others had to step up and that was obvious this weekend.
“So many of them contributed and that’s what you need in T20.”
Joyce will have to get used to a new coach with the departure shortly of Trent Johnston.
“It’s brilliant for TJ but devastating for us. We were very comfortable with him and we felt we were on a journey that would last a few years.
“But we’ve had Craig Hogan and Nigel Pyne working with us for a while and whoever gets the job I’m sure Trent will keep in touch and be available for advice.”
Although Leinster were unlucky not to get a chance to play the interpro deciders, the North West Warriors are worthy champions. Bobby Rao and his team took a lot of stick for their insistence on playing a young, untested side and have been rewarded with a title already.
For all the great youngsters being produced in Leinster, five of the last eight home-grown Irish debutants have come from the north-west.
There’s no doubt that Stuart Thompson, Andy McBrine, Graeme McCarter and Craig Young will win many more caps, and just as little doubt that the Warriors will become a powerhouse sooner rather than later.
It was unfortunate that Jeremy Bray’s first day as stand-in coach should end with Leinster Lightning surrendering the T20 interpro title, but it was hardly his fault.
The bank holiday deluge killed off the decider against the Warriors.
With Trent Johnston returning to Sydney to coach at NSW, Bray is widely tipped to take the reins of the Lightning.
One of the finest batsmen ever to grace these shores, he has been working with elite players as a batting consultant as well as coaching the Danish national side.
Denmark has already shown great improvement under him, but they missed out on promotion to World League Division 3 and therefore have reduced opportunities in the years ahead.
Johnston has done a fine job establishing structures and practices that have made Lightning the leading provincial side.
He can be sure he’s leaving them in good hands were Bray to throw his baggy cap in the ring in for the job.
Thursday: Women's Div1: Leinster v YMCA, Pembroke v Merrion, Hills v North Kildare,
Saturday: RSA Div1: North County v Terenure, The Hills v Merrion, YMCA v Clontarf, Railway Union v Pembroke; Div2: Balbriggan v Cork County, Merrion 2 v Malahide, Leinster v Rush, Pembroke 2 v Phoenix; Women's Pilkington Pro40: Fingal v YMCA, Malahide
Sunday: Women's Pilkington Pro40: YMCA v North Kildare
Tuesday: (day 1 of 3) Northern Knights v Leinster Lightning, Waringstown