Cricket Ireland offers extra women's contracts to performance squad

Gaby Lewis and Leah Paul
Gaby Lewis and Leah Paul formed a formidable opening partnership for the Scorchers in the Super 50 series

Cricket Ireland has announced that it is offering extra contracts - a move which will contribute to its largest ever senior women's performance squad.

Seven part-time retainer contracts are being offered for 2021 for the Ireland women's senior international squad.

Among the new recipients are 21-year-old Leah Paul, who finished the highest run-scorer in the Super 50 series this year, scoring 295 runs.

Twelve non-retainer contracts are also being provided.

Paul's run tally included two half-centuries and her season average was an impressive 49.17.

She formed a formidable opening partnership with the series' second highest run-scorer Gaby Lewis, and with her left-arm spin she makes a promising all-round option for head coach Ed Joyce.

Cricket Ireland first brought in women's central contracts in 2019, when six part-time retainer contracts were on offer - although one of the original recipients, vice-captain Kim Garth, leaving in June to pursue a full-time professional career in Australia.

The remaining five players have been joined by Paul and Orla Prendergast, as the number increases from six to seven contracted players.

A number of younger cricketers have earned non-retainer contracts, including hard-hitting wicketkeeper-batter Amy Hunter - born and raised in Belfast, 15-year-old Hunter has been part of the Shapoorji Pallonji Cricket Ireland Academy and has caught the eye of selectors from an early age.

Richard Holdsworth, high performance director for Cricket Ireland, said: "We're pleased that we have been able to further increase our contracts in the women's game, despite the challenges that 2020 has brought us all.

"2021 will be a crucial year for Irish women's cricket - with a 50-over World Cup Qualifier in the offing and the ICC Women's Championship approaching, it is critical that we prepare the squad for the battles ahead and give them the best chance to succeed."

Part-time retainer contracts have been offered to: Laura Delany, Shauna Kavanagh, Mary Waldron, Gaby Lewis, Celeste Raack, Orla Prendergast, Leah Paul.

Non-retainer contracts: Eimear Richardson, Lara Maritz, Hannah Little, Louise Little, Rebecca Stokell, Una Raymond-Hoey, Sophie MacMahon, Cara Murray, Georgina Dempsey, Rachel Delaney, Jane Maguire, Amy Hunter.

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