DUBLIN, BELFAST and BREADY – More than 30 of Ireland’s elite cricketers return to training this week at three dedicated hubs across Ireland, with the senior men’s and women’s squads undertaking modified training sessions in accordance with Cricket Ireland’s COVID-19 Safe Return to Training Protocols.
Preparatory cleaning and disinfecting work at the Cricket Ireland High Performance Centre in Dublin, the cricket facilities at the Civil Service NI Ground in Belfast, and at Bready Cricket Club in the North West has been undertaken over the weekend to ensure the players and coaches have a safe and clean environment to train.
Richard Holdsworth, High Performance Director for Cricket Ireland, said:
“Our elite senior players are obviously delighted to get some form of cricket activity back underway. We’re very much taking a safety-first approach to ensure the health of players and coaches, as well as the staff on hand who are supporting the sessions and helping to implement the COVID-19 Safe Return to Training Protocols.”
“The most effective and controllable solution was to create three high performance regional hubs to host the practice and training of our men’s and women’s performance squads. The sessions will feature 1:1 individual work in small group numbers. The approved protocols cover maintenance and cleaning regimes for facilities and sporting equipment, and how players and coaches can train and interact in a cricketing sense, while maintaining social distancing.”
“We have trained COVID-19 Safety Officers to manage these hubs, held online education sessions with the players and coaches over the weekend, and provided support for the three venues in implementing many of the essential hygiene and compliance measures. Everyone is aware of what is required to comply with the safety protocols, now it’s just up to the weather to play its part!”
“There has been a tremendous amount of work behind-the-scenes to get the elite players underway. We would like to acknowledge the many stakeholders involved in the development of the guidelines including Sport Ireland and Sport Northern Ireland, our players, coaches, Provincial Unions, the Irish Cricketers’ Association, the Northern Ireland Civil Service Sports Association (NICSSA) and Bready Cricket Club. We are also grateful to the Sport Ireland Institute who has included Cricket in their programme of Return to Train and we shall re-commence strength and conditioning work there in the coming weeks.”
Despite the write-off of Ireland’s international home programme in 2020, Holdsworth is hopeful that the return to training will put both the men’s and women’s squads in a good position ahead of possible international action later in the year:
“We are still in discussions with the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) regarding playing three ODI’s against England in late July. Clearly, the approval of those matches is a matter for the ECB and the UK Government, and we shall continue to liaise closely with ECB in that regard. In terms of getting ready for those matches should the approval come, with a 6-8 week period regarded as essential from the standing start of lockdown to being ready for international cricket – particularly for our bowlers – it was crucial that our players did not lose any more time with the England squad already back to training. In addition, there is also still the outside prospect of the men’s T20 World Cup in late 2020 – so it may still be a big year for the men’s squad.”
“The women’s squad are looking at a rescheduled World Cup Qualifier tournament which, if it proceeds this year, will require a lead-up programme.”
“We have a few players still overseas at the moment, and two who permanently reside in England, but otherwise we expect to have the contracted senior men’s squad involved today. The women’s senior performance squad and the four emerging contracted players will start training from tomorrow.”
Holdsworth also sees these elite training sessions as the first stage of a gradual return to training within the international performance pathway:
“All of our staff coaches will be involved in the training of our senior players during this first stage – given the greatest priorities around the key international competition ahead. Further into the government roadmaps – north and south – we shall in time re-introduce coaching for our talent pathway and academies.”
“So, while it’s not quite ‘back to normal’ just yet, this is definitely a positive step for cricket in Ireland.”