The Southern Stars are coming to Dublin!

Sure listen, isn't the summer shaping up nicely for the Irish Women's cricket team. In 2015 Ireland will compete against world champions Australia in Dublin, after their Ashes tour to England. Ireland will also have some hugely important games either side of this, including the ICC Women’s World t20 Qualifiers in Bangkok, the ECB Women’s County Championship and ECB Women’s t20 Cup.

The Australian fixtures in Dublin are as follows –

Wed Aug 19 (20 ovs) 1st t20I - Ireland Women v Australia Women - Venue TBC
Fri Aug 21 (20 ovs) 2nd t20I - Ireland Women v Australia Women - Venue TBC
Sat Aug 22 (20 ovs) 3rd t20I - Ireland Women v Australia Women - Venue TBC

Australia are ranked 1 in the world in both ODI and T20 format, whilst Ireland are ranked 9th in T20. The last time Ireland played Australia in Ireland, it was not pleasant viewing for those in green. Australian legend Karen Rolton tee’d off in a freezing Clarmont Road and Ireland chased shadows for a very long day. Since then, the entire Irish team has changed in personnel and structure and there is an under swell of excitement to see how we approach these games on home turf.

Ireland's success in last year’s County Champs means it looks from the outside like players and coaches are getting to know each other and the team is playing to their strengths. Yes, the topic of who is the next Irish coach is still floating around cricket circles, but in the meantime the girls are not standing still and have been working hard, doing their best with what they have. Mark Lane, who coached England to World Cup success, has been taking the squad for Saturday sessions. Mark is a top coach and the girls are in good hands.

Whilst in the past Ireland have hosted sides, including South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies and Sri Lanka, the preparations for both on and off-the-field have never hit the heights. The days when such opportunities to put our game in front of the public could be ignored have well and truly gone. Now it is the time: women’s sport in general is undergoing a revolution and with a lot more people are becoming interested in team based activities, Irish cricket, especially the women’s game must invest in growth and capitalise on this new attention.

The modern world of social media has given exposure to women’s sport and achievements with hash-tags #roadtorio #coygig #wrwc2014 becoming synonymous with various women's sport in Ireland. Why shouldn’t cricket have its own attention gaining hash-tags? Our Irish Womens cricket team regularly compete on the world stage with World Cups at 50 and 20 overs at the top level. Women’s cricket in Ireland is a great product with great possibilities of playing around the world and in world cups.

The gap between world champions Australia and Ireland remains large. In 2014 Australia played nearly forty ODI against world class opposition, and Ireland played in 5 t20 World Cup games, 6 European Cup games and 8 games in the ECB Women's County Championships. When you add in that Cricket Australia reported a 183% increase in female participation and now have 14 contracted players, whilst Ireland have managed to add three or four teams to our Leinster leagues, it again demonstrates the wide gap and that efforts must be made to close that gap.

When Meg Lanning reported that the Australian team’s administration played a huge part in their rise to fame and consistency, the question was asked on Twitter "could CricketIreland say the same?" The answer given was "80 million in the difference!" - and while that is all correct, does it not show if a little more emphasis, structure and money was pumped into the Irish domestic leagues we just might jump a level?

The goal is growth not perfection, and as mentioned before, back in November the CricketLeinster women's committee submitted a proposal for a "Super 3's" competition to resurrect the Pilkington Cup. There has been no official announcement from Cricket Ireland or Cricket Leinster, the word on the street is that it is going ahead.

As we go to print, all domestic cricket fixtures for the 2015 season are being made and scheduled. The women's domestic fixtures and Cups will be available in February. The Cricket Leinster women's committee are planning a face-lift for the women's game with a fresh approach.

Marketing and communication tools are being made available to all clubs. It is hoped with some more T.L.C. the participation numbers will rise and cricket will once again start to compete with other summer sports that have flown out ahead in past years.

Returning to the topic of the Australians arriving next summer, it is hoped that there will be a greater interest, a much bigger turnout and that there is really a build-up to these games. Surely we all want to be supporting the girls in green and viewing our next batch of talent playing against the top female cricketers in the world.

It is not every day that Ireland get to host world champions such as Meg Manning and Ellyse Perry, and every aspiring female cricketer must get to the games and see such stars in action (on and off the field). Other female sports make efforts to attract such crowds, and cricket can not ignore the competition for future players.

The Irish men’s team attract media coverage on the back of their achievements, but it was not always so. It took hard work, good results and determination to get to the stage where they regularly appear on the sports pages.

Going forward there must be some synergy in cricket. The men's and women's games should now go forward hand in hand, with coverage of all games and top class fixtures all year round. Australia the world champions are coming to town, and here's hoping it will be the lighting of a fuse under the firework of a new dawn for Irelands women’s cricket as well as a superb spectacle.