They are ranked 10th of the 10 teams competing, and it’s not surprising given that the other sides boast either full-time or semi-professional players. But for captain Isobel Joyce, Ireland are capable of causing an upset or two.
“We’ll go into every game looking to win, but New Zealand and Australia would be the favourites in our group. We played Pakistan in January in Qatar in a warm-up tournament and we beat them, and we think we have the beating of South Africa too,” said the Bray woman, whose twin sister Cecelia also plays.
The 15-player squad and four-member management team flew via Dubai to Bangladesh a week ago ahead of their opening game against the Kiwis at the 13,500-seater Sylhet Stadium today.
Hosts Bangladesh will make their maiden appearance at the T20 event, as will the Irish, who qualified after beating the Netherlands by two runs in a thrilling third place play-off in Dublin last summer.
Since then, former Irish men’s star Trent Johnson (TJ) came on board as head coach in January, building on work done by Australian-born Jeremy Bray.
“TJ is someone you just want around your team, and I’d imagine he was a great team-mate before he retired, ” said Joyce. “His commitment is so infectious and he just gives you that extra drive,” added the 31-year-old, who has 33 caps since her debut against India in 1999. “We want to cause a few upsets, if not one, if not two, if not three, if not four, and go from there,” said the Merrion right-handed batter, whose brother Ed has played for Ireland and England.
A fortnight ago, the squad visited the Aviva Stadium to show their support for the national women’s rugby team, who were making history in playing their first game at Ballsbridge venue.
Afterwards, three-time Olympic hurdler and Irish Examiner columnist Derval O’Rourke joined Joyce and her team-mates for dinner, and presented the players with their T20 World Cup jerseys.
It was a special moment for Joyce; as was watching a number of her friends make history at the Aviva.
“The Irish women’s rugby team deserve all the coverage they’re getting because of what they’ve achieved with the Grand Slam last year. We haven’t done anything yet at a World Cup, yes we qualified but that’s old news. We have to go to Bangladesh and do something to get that awareness.”
Ireland are in Group A of the ICC-run World Cup alongside defending champions Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan, while England, the West Indies, India, Sri Lanka and hosts Bangladesh make up Group B.
The top two sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals, while the remaining sides will play-off to determine final finishing positions.
Hopefully Ireland will place and ignite a new sports craze, but Joyce won’t have long to relax in the aftermath, as she will travel to Den Bosch in Holland upon her return for the EuroHockey Club Champions Cup with her club, All-Ireland champions Railway Union.
However, the prospect of facing T20 world champions Australia on Thursday will help keep her mind firmly on the job in hand!.