Seven Ireland women players offered professional contracts for first time

Seven full-time professional contracts have been offered to players in the Ireland women’s cricket squad for the first time.

The announcement on Thursday comes as part of a £1.26million investment from Cricket Ireland.

On a huge day for women’s cricket, coach Ed Joyce also signed a three-year contract extension.

This summer, Ireland will take on Australia, South Africa and Pakistan at home.

Ireland captain Laura Delany bats during the Women's Twenty20 tour match between Lancashire Women and Ireland Women at Emirates Old Trafford on July 01, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Those players who are now full-time professionals include captain Laura Delany, Shauna Kavanagh, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson and Mary Waldron.

Nine players, including 16-year-old Amy Hunter from Belfast, will be on part-time/educational contracts with four signing non-retainer contracts.

Ireland skipper Delany said: “As a squad we are truly excited and thankful for this opportunity – it is something that many of us never would have dreamed of when we started out playing the sport we love.

“While thankful, though, we also acknowledge the hard work, sacrifice and commitment shown by the players to achieve the honour of representing our country at the highest levels.

“And, as fortunate as the players here today are for having this opportunity, we know that we are standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before us,” she added.

“To the generations of women who came before us, we say thank you... and we hope we can do you proud.”

Joyce - appointed women’s coach in 2019 welcomed the ‘brilliant’ announcement.

“I absolutely love the job, it’s a talented group and a committed group even without the full-time contracts,” said Joyce.

“It’s a brilliant announcement with the contracts and so exciting but I would have done it anyway (signed extension).

“It’s the responsibility of this group, the coaching staff and Cricket Ireland to make sure we push on in the next few years and actually deserve this.”

Ireland will also play a T20 World Cup Qualifier and a major tour in late 2022, with the destination yet to be confirmed.