Ireland are getting an early start on preparations for the T20 World Cup – and it is largely thanks to a seven-year relationship that has helped develop some of their brightest stars.
After narrowly missing out on the Super 12s in last year’s edition in the UAE, the talented group are back with a vengeance as they head into the centrepiece event of T20 cricket.
Ireland have had a challenging home summer, playing against the likes of India and New Zealand, but have touched down in Australia early for an extended warm-up period.
Kicking things off at Coogee Oval, Ireland are spending a week being hosted by NSW Premier Cricket powerhouse Randwick Petersham – a club that has a long-standing connection with the growing cricket nation.
Since 2015, a plethora of young Irish stars have made their way over to the Randy Petes for a summer in Australian conditions – and the partnership has paid dividends for all parties.
Barry McCarthy, Harry Tector, Stephen Doheny and national captain Andrew Balbirnie have all spent time playing for the green and gold outfit, and the partnership has continued in 2022 with Tector’s younger brother Tim joining the club.
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Speaking exclusively to The Sporting News ahead of the T20WC, right-arm seamer McCarthy reminisced on his experience Down Under back in 2015 and the chance to perfect his craft in different conditions.
“I had a great time here – I started off in the second team, got to play a bit of cricket here at Coogee Oval, which is a lovely part of the world,” he said.
“I played a bit of first-team cricket towards the end of the year, I think there’s a picture up in the changerooms of the T20-winning team from 2015, which was seven years ago now and it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was here.
“Unfortunately, I got injured and spent the rest of the year playing in the second team as a batter, which is a little bit disappointing. I came over here with high hopes of trying to make my way into the First Grade team, which I did, and then after I did all the hard work I ended up getting injured.
“It was a real learning curve for me at the time, I had only played two first-class games for Durham and then came straight into a season here and continued playing cricket throughout the whole winter, which was exactly what I needed at that time of my career.
“I think that was one of the opportunities that helped me get to where I am today.”
Since playing for the Randy Petes seven years ago, the 30-year-old has gone on to play 38 ODIs and 28 T20s for Ireland, taking a total of 86 wickets for his country.
McCarthy isn’t the only player within the Irish squad that has benefited from his time in Australia early in his career.
Middle-order batsman Tector – one of the side’s most important players heading into the T20WC – also spent time with Randwick Petersham and has now emerged as a budding star in the shortest format of the game.
The 22-year-old told The Sporting News that his experiences playing in Australia will only help him heading into the upcoming tournament.
“I loved it here, I loved my time playing for Randwick Petersham…being back in Coogee is never a bad thing, it’s such a great spot,” Tector said.
“You don’t want to be dealing with that jetlag and those sorts of teething problems when you get into the World Cup. To come out here to play some good cricket and acclimatise to the conditions is really important.
“For it to be not be too intense, which a World Cup is at times, and for everyone to come out here and ease into things is really important and we’ve had a great start so far.
“We’ve all played here and know what the wicket is like. There’s a lot of guys here who played in the 2015 World Cup…pitches, grounds and those sorts of things, we are tapping into that knowledge and trying to make sure that we have all the information possible going into that first game.”
The cricket is always the first priority for budding professionals, but the off-field learning curves for the likes of McCarthy and Tector in the formative years of their career has helped shape them as men.
McCarthy whole-heartedly believes in the program between the Sydney club and international side, and prays that it continues long into the future.
“I actually remember it quite well – I was the first person to come out here in 2015/16 season and I was a young guy, 23 at the time, and going across to the other side of the world for six months can be a bit daunting,” he said.
“I was nervous coming out, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think you really know until you’re out here yourself, but it didn’t take long. I remember John Stewart [club CEO] picking me up from the airport, setting me up in his apartment and it was golden from then on.
“There are so many people at this club who put themselves out there for you…a couple of guys in the first team made me feel so at ease and I remember everyone offering to bring me to their house for Christmas and stuff like that.
“They are such a nice group of people which is lovely, and it’s great to see that they’ve built a strong connection from when I started off and going a long way into the future. Randwick Petersham give you the chance to play a serious level of cricket, but also growing up within themselves.
“Being across the other side of the world at a young age is difficult, but long may this continue please God – it is such a valuable asset for Cricket Ireland to have, to be able to send young up and coming cricketers out here to play a serious level of cricket and be well looked after.”
The Lefand Cricket Week is a golden opportunity for not only Ireland to prepare, but for the Randy Petes to showcase themselves and allow the opportunity for their own players to gain valuable experience against an international side.
Due to the poor weather, a clash featuring an SCG XI that featured BBL players Chris Green and Nick Larkin was cancelled on Wednesday, but a match between NSW and Ireland on Friday may still go ahead.
Tector praised the hospitality of Randwick Petersham and spoke highly of the opportunities afforded to him a few years ago.
“It’s massively important – not just from a cricketing point of view, but from a life point of view,” he said.
“You’re learning to live on your own for the first time maybe, and just developing as a player and person. It’s the premier club cricket competition in the world and you learn so much about yourself and about playing in a new team and new conditions.
“You can only get better from playing out here and Cricket Ireland are very fortunate with the partnership we have with Randwick Petersham – it’s not something that goes unnoticed, just how great they are to deal with and how they look after us and the players that come here.
“This week is a prime example of that, it’s been unbelievable and the hospitality shown is amazing. A lot of us owe so much to coming here and all the people at Randwick Petersham who have looked after us – it’s massive.”