Laura Delany, 24, from Knocklyn, plays for Leinster Cricket Club (Rathmines) and captains Ireland. An all-rounder and medium-paced inswing bowler, she made her senior international debut in 2010 when she was 17, and still a fifth-year in school.
Q: What’s the most annoying misconception you hear about cricket?
A: That it’s not a physically demanding sport. At the start of this tour we played three matches against England in Dubai and it was 46, 45 and 41 celsius those days! In these 20-over games, you’re out from 10.30am to 5.30pm and you have to be so fit to compete and always be mentally switched on. You only realise how physically demanding cricket is when you play it.
Q: How did you get into the game?
A: Like a lot of Irish players it’s a family thing. My dad played and, as kids, we were always down around the club. I started playing at U11, mostly as a social thing, but as I got to U14/U15 I took it more seriously and it went from there. I’m quite competitive.
Q: Was 17 not awfully young to make your senior international debut?
A: Not in cricket. This tour squad is particularly young. We’re missing 7-8 girls due to work/study commitments because they already needed 5 weeks off last February-March for the World Cup qualifiers. There’s a few girls older than me but a lot of the team, like Lara Maritz and Gaby Lewis, are only 16 and some are younger.
Q: What? Younger than 16?
A: Yes, Louise Little is only 13! She’s only a first-year in school.
Q: You wouldn’t be allowed play senior at that age in many sports. Why so young?
A: One of biggest issues in Irish women’s cricket is the lack of numbers. There’s a very small pool of players. There’s seven clubs in Dublin and it’s growing in Belfast but there’s not a lot outside of that. That’s why good players stand out when they’re very young. Lou-Lou (Little) is a really good fast bowler and this tour is giving her an opportunity to see what it takes to get to the next level.
Q: With such a variety of ages how on earth does the Irish team get together for training?
A: In winter anyone in college or working (but not the schoolgirls) has two 6.30am gym sessions a-week in DCU. There’s also compulsory skills sessions for everyone on Monday and Wednesday nights. They’re two and a half hour each,, out in North County CC, in Ballbriggan and we have to fit in two conditioning sessions ourselves as well. North County is our training base in Winter and it’s YMCA in Sandymount in the summers.
Q: Is there an Irish women’s national league?
A: It’s called ‘Super Threes’ and there’s about 30 players each on three different squads; The Typhoons, The Scorchers and The Dragons. It’s basically a national one-day league of 50 or 20-over games, mostly played in Dublin though we also play in NCU in the North and in Oak Hill in Wicklow. We play pretty much every Sunday and sometimes two games a-weekend.
Q: So how do you combine work with playing for Ireland?
A: I did my finals in sports science and health in IT Tallaght last year and am now looking for work but it’s not easy. I spent time playing in Australia during the last two winters and only got home a few weeks before this trip so I’m looking for a job now. In cricket, with so many international fixtures, trying to pursue a career is quite difficult. It’s hard for an employer when you want four to five weeks off for tours.
Q: If you lived elsewhere could you make a living as a cricket player?
A: The English team, who we played in Dubai on our way here, are now on full-time contracts. Their salaries are on a tiered basis and they get cars. When we arrived to play them they’d already been there for two and a half weeks training.
Q: Isn’t women’s cricket in Australia also professional?
A: Yes, the women’s Twenty20 ‘Big Bash’ league is, but that’s only 6 weeks long. I think you only make about 6 grand which obviously is not enough to live off but, if you’re on the Australian national squad, you also get a salary to add to that. It’s completely different down there, especially the amount of support and publicity they get.
Q: Cricket is Australia’s equivalent of hurling in terms of identity and skills. Could hurlers and camogie players make decent cricketers?
A: Definitely! That’s something they do with the Big Bash actually. They recruit from other sports and pick out one or two players per season. I know they gave a wild-card pick to one hockey player who played really well off very little training. We need to go after some camogie players! I think they could really bring something great to Irish cricket.
Q: Funniest thing to ever happen you in a match?
A: When I was U15 I ran to a boundary to pick up a ball. We usually go in pairs - one retrieves the ball and the other throws it - but I didn’t hear the other player behind me. Soon as I turned around Louise McCarthy ran into me and tackled me to the ground. She hasn’t lived it down since. Mortifying!
Q: The role of captaincy is over-stated in some sports but is it important in cricket?
A: Yes and I’m only really appreciating that since I became Irish captain last August. Out on the field, you’re in charge of field placements. Tactics play a huge role in cricket so you’re always trying to out-think the batter and put people in positions to create pressure and take wickets.
Q: The World Cup is in England this summer (June 24-23). Are Ireland playing?
A: No, we didn’t qualify, but we’re hoping that a few of the teams involved will come over to us beforehand for some warm-up games, so watch out for those.
Q: Who should we watch out for in the 2017 World Cup? Who’s the Messi of women’s international cricket?
A: For me it would be Meg Lanning, the Australian captain. She’s an incredible fielder and such a classy batter. She’s very tactical, a very intelligent cricketer who makes everything look so easy.
Q: And finally, it sounds like something we should do on a computer but what exactly is a ‘googly?’
A: It’s a type of a bowl. Basically it’s the opposite of what you think it’s going to be. The ball leaves the hand very differently so it tries to trick the batter that it’s going to land in one place but actually does the complete opposite!
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