The first round of league fixtures in Sprint Coatings Women’s Division 1 kicks off this evening with three games.
Firstly in Rathmines, two of the victorious sides in Tuesday night’s Senior Cup ties go head-to-head, as Leinster begin their search for a fourth consecutive league title against Clontarf.
The home side will be without the services of Jenny Sparrow who will be playing for Dublin University until their season ends – she showed her value to the side on Tuesday night with a brisk 33 off just 23 balls including two sixes, Leinster will hope another batter can step up into that power-hitting role which Sparrow usually plays so well. On a positive note, Sophie MacMahon’s performance with both bat and ball on Tuesday reminded everyone that while she may not have played recently against Scotland, she is very much an international standard cricketer.
Meanwhile Clontarf who edged out The Hills will be hoping they can call on the services of Cara Murray, who was forced to miss out of Tuesday’s tie due to last minute regulation changes involving Cricket Ireland’s all-Ireland competition. If she does indeed return, it will bolster a bowling attack which was led so brilliantly by captain Emma Butler on Tuesday evening.
The second game will see the two sides who lost out in their first round ties face off, Phoenix will have been encouraged hugely by their showing against an extremely strong Leinster side, with Lara Maritz’s 78* an excellent example of the types of performance that individuals in their side can produce – they’ll also hope that their seam attack of Maritz, Georgina Dempsey and Ashlee King can get more of a foothold in the game after running into a formidable pair of MacMahon and Laura Delany for the majority of their spells on Tuesday.
The Hills on the other hand were involved in a close-run game and that competitiveness is sure to stand to them as the league gets under-way, Jane Maguire led from the front with the bat, but it’s arguably her bowling which will be the more important asset against this Phoenix side who’s 137 total on Tuesday can probably be upgraded given the calibre of attack they were facing in Leinster. Tess Maritz was one of the form players in the league last season, and she will be vital to The Hills chances of making a score which they can defend in this game.
The featured game this evening will be the clash between Pembroke and Malahide in Sydney Parade, it’s the home side’s first game of the season, with their Senior Cup first round game not being played until after the state examinations are completed, while Malahide were left smarting on Tuesday after being comprehensively beaten by a strong Merrion side.
Malahide will hope they can welcome back Amy Hunter to their ranks having been another player excluded due to the regulations on Tuesday, her performances last season, alongside skipper Caoimhe McCann, were the backbone of every game they played and to bring a player of that calibre back in to the team is as big a boost tonight as it would have been a blow to lose her from their side ahead of Tuesday’s tie.
McCann is hopeful that her side can take some learnings from that game;
“Tuesday was a tough game for us but we're a young team so we were still able to take a lot of positives from the game.”
She was also quick to acknowledge the benefits of being back to league cricket allowing the return of the Northern based players;
“It'll be great to have the girls from the north who come down and play for us back. Hopefully they will be able to add a bit of depth to our batting as that was one of the areas we struggled with the last night.”
Pembroke meanwhile have got star names of their own to call upon, Shauna Kavanagh, LouLou Little and Orla Prendergast have all put in strong performances in the Super Series so far this season and they will be hoping to translate that back to club level.
Prendergast has been in particularly strong form with both bat and ball in that competition, and is looking forward to the game this evening;
“We’re all really excited to get going this week against Malahide. We’ve had a few weeks of really good training sessions so everyone’s prepared and looking forward to the first game. We had a slightly disappointing season last year, finishing 3rd so we’re coming back this year looking to improve on that and put in consistent match-winning performances.”
There’s always youth coming through the ranks in Pembroke, and Orla is quick to point to a couple of names that we could see help improve the side in the coming weeks;
“We have a few really promising young players coming through. Lainey Martin, Kimli McDonald and Isobel Jennings are some of our younger players coming through. They’ve each been working really hard at training and improving week on week so I’m really excited to see how they get on this season.”
With this week’s clash in mind, she continued;
“In relation to playing Malahide to start this week, we expect it to be a tight and competitive game. We know there’s obviously some big wickets we need to take early and we’re going to need to put in a really good performance. Overall, we’re confident and really looking forward to getting back out there.”
Sprint Coatings Women's Division 1
Phoenix vs The Hills - Phoenix Park - 18:00
Leinster vs Clontarf - Observatory Lane - 18:00
Pembroke vs Malahide - Sydney Parade - 18:00 - featured game with full Cricket Leinster coverage