Isobel Joyce recently met with the team at Balbriggan CC to understand and support their plans to introduce Women’s & Girls cricket at the club in 2022. Balbriggan is actually one of three clubs looking to participate in CL Women’s competitions for the first time in 2022.
First Isobel spoke with Gary Dunphy who explained - “The key to a good club is the people and Balbriggan are extremely grateful and lucky to have so many good people involved in the Brigg,” he said. “Over the past 10 years, the Club has invested massively to improve the facilities and, most importantly, the coaching across both the junior and senior members. These improvements and our progress so far are down to the hard work and dedication of our club members, the parents who have got involved, and the strength of our Club Committee along with the support of the people and businesses of Balbriggan.”
Balbriggan has grown impressively. Ten years ago there were two senior teams and two junior teams; today there are five Men's Senior teams, ten junior teams as well as a social Taverners team. 2022 will be a special year, though – Women’s cricket is coming to the town. “In 2022, Balbriggan are extremely proud and excited to introduce our Women’s and Girl’s section which includes 2 Adult Women’s teams, 2 Junior teams and a Women’s Social team,” announces Dunphy.
So why now for women and girls’ cricket in Balbriggan?
“Balbriggan is a young, fast growing and diverse town with over 4500 children and 11+ schools,” says Dunphy, simply. “We have a massive catchment area and our clubhouse and ground are centrally located in Balbriggan Town Park, which is a big advantage for anyone who wants to come to the club.”
Balbriggan have been planning the introduction of a Women’s & Girls’ section for a number of years as part of their overall strategy to grow and provide quality cricket facilities and coaching for everyone in the community.
Things kicked off in 2019 with the introduction of a Girls’ section with regular Friday evening training sessions. “Numbers have increased significantly throughout 2020 and 2021 and our coaches Lara Maritz, Tess Maritz and Ashlee King along with our Girls’ Manager Lavinia McLean have been instrumental in the growth and success of the girls’ section to date,” added Dunphy.
The next, natural step was introducing a Women’s section to build on and continue this growth, providing a playing pathway for the large number of 5-14 year-old girls currently in the club. There are talented youngsters coming through, and it’s important that they can see where they can go with the game. Dunphy agrees: “We have a lot of talent in the club. Up and coming teenagers such as Izzy McLean and Erin Knight, who both have huge potential and are currently involved in the Cricket Leinster girls representative programme at U13’s & U15’s level, can now stay on in their home club and play competitive Women’s cricket for Balbriggan.”
Cricket is a family sport, especially in Ireland where it tends to run in families. The same goes in Balbriggan and they’re determined to keep up the tradition. “We are very much a family club and cricket is a special sport, which we have seen since we introduced the Girls & Women’s cricket. There are not many other sports where mother and daughter, and father and son, can train and play on the same team. The introduction of a Women’s 2nd team and Social team for mothers and daughters is a key element of our plans to offer cricket for all levels - competitive and social,” he said.
A big boost for Balbriggan is the move of Lara Maritz to the club. “Over the summer we started working with Balbriggan Cricket Club, coaching the girls’ group and as time progressed it really became clear that Tess (Lara’s twin sister) and I had a lot in common with the club as far as our passion and commitment to developing girls and women’s cricket is concerned,” said the Ireland international.
“We live around the corner from the club and it makes sense to throw our efforts behind their ongoing work and vision to build a strong women’s section. In talking to the Cricket Committee over the last number of months it became clear to us that we share the same commitment, vision and enthusiasm for girls and women’s cricket so we want to play our part in building a strong section and a first team capable of competing in Division 1, thereby building the profile of the women’s game and setting an example for girls to follow,” she added.
“The club is very progressive and has been excellent in taking on board our ideas to grow and build a sustainable section, where girls and women of all ages can enjoy and express themselves socially and on the field at the level of their choosing – both at the top level and in family-oriented club. We will also have Ashlee King – who has played State Cricket in Australia – joining us, so we’ll have a solid foundation together with home grown talent. We are really excited for the 2022 season.”
What are the driving forces behind this new push for women and girls’ cricket in Balbriggan?
“Our overall vision is to become one of Ireland’s leading cricket clubs offering the highest standard of facilities and coaching for all levels of players. We want to develop and strengthen a pathway for women and girls to actively participate and enjoy playing cricket at Balbriggan,” says Dunphy.
An ambitious club, the Brigg are determined to make their way to Division one before long. “Our long-term goal is to build a sustainable Women’s & Girls’ section which will grow and develop year on year. We have a strong management team in place and have appointed a dedicated Women’s Head Coach Chuka Uba, who is a level 2 South African coach and has been involved with the club over the past couple of years.
“I’m really excited to take on this role and am looking forward to working as coach with the women’s section in the club,” said Chuka. “I’ve been involved with Balbriggan since moving to Ireland in 2020 and can only say good things about my time here. I have no doubt the club will put every effort into making the women and girls’ section a success,” he added.
Winter sessions are already under way
Winter training for women and girls began on 7th November. The first 6 sessions up until 12th December are open training sessions and anyone interested in coming along is welcome to attend and train with the squads.
“We hold Sunday training for social cricket, beginners and more experienced training split over 2 sessions and absolutely all abilities are welcome,” explains Dunphy. “We plan to run 17 more indoor sessions right up to the end of March 2022 in North County indoor hall before the start of the 2022 season.”
“Our first training session had excellent numbers with 35 Women and teenagers attending across the 2 sessions. Feedback was really positive and it’s so encouraging to see everyone and in particular the new girls, women, mothers and daughters, experiencing the joy of cricket and having fun!”
How are you going about attracting new members – it seems to be working!
Balbriggan are shouting from the roof tops to attract new members! “We’ve been in contact with local schools and groups, posted sponsored ads on our Social media channels and encouraged parents, siblings and friends of current players to get involved,” explains Dunphy with a smile.
“It certainly has worked so far, but we would still love to see more members join us,” he said.
Balbriggan CC are always looking for new members. If you would like further information, contact the club via their website www.balbriggancricketclub.com or phone 0860644238.