Joyce retires from county cricket to chase Ireland Test dream

Ed Joyce's dream is to play in Ireland's maiden Test, maybe as soon as 2018 Sportsfile

Ed Joyce, the former Sussex captain, has announced his retirement from county cricket with immediate effect, as he focusses the remaining years of his career on the dream of playing Test cricket for Ireland.

Joyce, 38, has been an integral member of the Ireland squad since 2011, when he completed his re-qualification for his native country, having played 17 ODIs for England between 2006 and 2007 - a stint that included a matchwinning century against Australia at Sydney, and a subsequent role in England's World Cup campaign in the Caribbean.

At the 2011 World Cup, he was a member of the Ireland team that stunned England in a famous run-chase at Bangalore - and last month, he fulfilled another long-cherished career goal by taking the field at Lord's, the home of his former county, Middlesex, during Ireland's maiden ODI series in England.

However, Joyce underwent knee surgery during the winter, and is acutely aware of the march of time, having admitted to ESPNcricinfo last month, "it's getting to the point where I'm not sure I can put myself through a lot more rehab."

And now, with Ireland seemingly on the brink of securing their long-coveted Test status - a decision could be made as soon as next month, at the ICC's annual general meeting in June - Joyce has taken the pragmatic approach of preserving his creaking body for the one remaining ambition of his career.

"County cricket has been a huge part of my life for the last 18 years and it is with a tinge of sadness that I've decided not to play this season or beyond," Joyce said. "I fully intended on playing at least some cricket for Sussex in 2017 but the realities of my various injuries, alongside my playing commitments here in Ireland have meant that this isn't possible."

Joyce had originally stated he would be available to play for Sussex on a cover basis this season, having been awarded a Category A player contract by Cricket Ireland, but a recent conversation with the club coach, Mark Davis, and captain, Luke Wright, led him to re-assess his priorities.

"When Mark and Luke asked about my availability for the upcoming Championship games, I felt the best thing to do for me and the club was to retire from county cricket altogether so we could both move on," he said.

"There's no doubt in my mind I played my best cricket at Sussex and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the coaches, players, supporters and environment at the club that allowed me to do this. I'll always feel like I'm coming home when I visit Hove in the future, which I plan to do as often as possible as a spectator.

"On a sunny day in the summer there's no better city to be in, or ground at which to watch cricket.

Joyce joined Sussex in 2009, following a decade at Middlesex, and was promoted to club captain in 2012. He scored over 8,000 first-class runs for Sussex, averaging 49.39 and making 23 centuries in the process. His 250 against Derbyshire last season, on his way to over 1,000 runs in the Specsavers County Championship, is the highest score of his first-class career.

On his watch, Sussex twice finished third in the top flight of the Championship, their best performances since being crowned county champions in 2007.

He will now focus his efforts on playing for Leinster in Ireland's newly revamped domestic competition, and hopes to still be in the frame for selection if Ireland are given the go-ahead to make their Test debut in 2018.

"On the playing side, I'm still enjoying competing for Ireland and Leinster," he said. "With the prospect of Test cricket and full membership potentially on the horizon, it's an exciting time for Irish cricket and I want to play my part in this process as long as I feel I can contribute on the field."

Keith Greenfield, Sussex's Director of Cricket, said: "Ed has been such an important player for the club since he joined us in 2009.

"The quality of his batting is obvious, and has been enjoyed and appreciated by all, but his impact as a person into the environment we have created here cannot be underestimated.

"His integrity, calmness and professionalism has been crucial to us throughout, both when winning trophies, and also when going through transition.

"A quality player and an outstanding man, we all wish him well for the future."