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Sussex eye job share as Joyce opts for Ireland

Ed Joyce has committed to Ireland's brave new world Getty Images

Ed Joyce has embarked upon a novel job-sharing deal by continuing his county career at Sussex while accepting a role as batting coach and mentor for Cricket Ireland during the inaugural season of their first-class competition.

Joyce's availability for Sussex sounds tenuous at best, as he also intends to play in Ireland's inter-provincial competition, but the county are reluctant to abandon links with an influential former captain who remains one of the mainstays of their batting.

Sussex's coach Mark Davis referred to Joyce as "cover for our full-time squad", but it is highly unlikely that they would not select him automatically in the Championship, even at 38, if and when he was available, considering his Championship average of 64 last season, including a career-best 250 against Derbyshire, and first-class career average approaching 50.

Joyce is one of ten players to agree a central Category A contract with Cricket Ireland and his commitment not just to Ireland but the Hanley Energy Inter-Provincial Series is a fillip as Ireland attempt to arrest a recent decline and advance their claims to become a full-fledged Test nation.

He will be based in Ireland, training with the national squad, and will also take up a specialist batting and leadership coaching role, working with the Shapoorji Pallonji National Academy and Ireland youth squads as well as mentoring some national performance squad players.

"Coming back to play full-time for Ireland and also play in the Inter-Provincial series was a big decision but also quite an easy one in the end," Joyce said. "Test cricket is the pinnacle for any cricketer. Ireland has a huge opportunity in the next few years to play at the highest level and I want to be part of the team that plays Ireland's first Test match.

Joyce has 81 caps in the two limited-overs formats for Ireland and England but never realised his ambitions to play Test cricket before reconfirming his commitment to the country of his birth.

"With Ireland's fixture list growing year on year it makes sense to come back at this stage," he said. "Also now that the Inter-pros have first-class and List A status, I wanted to be involved right from the start and lend my experience to that competition. It's a really exciting time to be an Irish cricketer and I can't wait for the 2017 season to get going.

"We're at the stage where we need to be more consistent and competitive as an international side and we also require the Inter-pros to improve and provide a steady stream of players ready to perform well for Ireland. My focus in the next few years while I'm still playing is to help us achieve both of these goals."

Ireland have ODIs in 2017 against New Zealand, Bangladesh and West Indies on home soil, as well as playing England at Bristol and Lord's.

Cricket Ireland performance director, Richard Holdsworth, welcomed Joyce's decision to play a full role in the coming season, saying: "It has been one of our strategic objectives to bring players back home from England and for Ed to be the first is very appropriate. He has given great service to Sussex as an outstanding batsman and leader, and we are grateful for their support to Ed's Ireland career over those years."

Sussex put a brave face on Joyce's decision, suggesting that he would be available for part of their Specsavers Championship campaign.

He joined them in 2009, assuming the captaincy three years later. He skippered Sussex to two successive third-placed finishes in the first division, the highest place that the county has finished since being crowned champions in 2007.

"Ed is still one of the best domestic players in the country, and for us to be able to call upon his talents as cover for our full-time squad is fantastic news," Davis said. "The sheer volume of runs he has scored in recent seasons makes him such an important player for us.

"Ed will be a cover player for us and depending on his availability with Ireland, we will have the option of selecting him. He has moved with his family back home to Ireland as his commitments to international cricket with Ireland grow, but to have him available to call upon is a real boost for us."