Clare Shillington: Former Ireland opener delighted with progress in women's game

Clare Shillington
Clare Shillington was Ireland's highest run scorer at the 2018 Women's World Twenty20

Former Ireland opener Clare Shillington says increased funding has made a "huge" difference to the women's game.

Shillington, who retired in 2018 after a 21-year international career, is now a coach and helps with Irish youth teams.

"There's six girls now within the Irish set-up that are semi-professional, part-time contracted," she said.

"When I started we had three games a year if we were lucky - now there's fantastic opportunities for the girls that are in the game."

Belfast-born Shillington made her senior debut at 16 just in 1997, when players had to cover their travel expenses.

"We had no memberships to gyms or access to additional staff like sports psychologists, nutritionists and all that," she told Sportsound Extra Time.

"For those that are in that Under-19 group that I'm involved with, there's a great pathway of opportunity within the game now and a lot of it does come down to funding.

"It wasn't there when I started but it was certainly there towards the back end of my career and I was very lucky to have access to fantastic sports psychologists and all those additional things that really make the small percentages, changes in your game that are so important."

Shillington was the first woman to reach 100 caps for Ireland and the first to score a century in a T20 match, while she bowed out on a high at the Women's World Twenty20 in 2018.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has seen a number of series involving both the Irish men's and women's teams being called off.

End of an era - Shillington, Isobel Joyce, Cecelia Joyce and Ciara Metcalfe after playing their final Ireland game in 2018
End of an era - Shillington, Isobel Joyce, Cecelia Joyce and Ciara Metcalfe after playing their final Ireland game in 2018 at the Women's World Twenty20

The lockdown has led to Cricket Ireland cutting wages and furloughing non-playing staff.

"It's very difficult for all the sporting bodies out there with potentially big tournaments coming up and whether they're on or not," added Shillington.

"I think Cricket Ireland have done a great job, I'm obviously not involved in the senior set-up anymore but I know they're doing a lot of online stuff.

"They're providing all the players with whatever equipment they can get to them to keep themselves fit and healthy at home, and continuing contact with things like the psychologists and nutritionists and all those sort of things.

"I know some countries are maybe not as affected as others but I suppose like anything you can only control the controllable."

You can hear the full interview with Clare Shillington on Sportsound Extra Time at 18:00 BST on Monday on BBC Radio Ulster.

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