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Talented Ireland hope for high-quality game time

Ireland's players attend a community outreach programme in the Caribbean IDI via Getty Images

Squad list

Laura Delany (capt), Kim Garth, Cecelia Joyce, Isobel Joyce, Shauna Kavanagh, Amy Kenealy, Gaby Lewis, Lara Maritz, Ciara Metcalfe, Lucy O'Reilly, Celeste Raack, Eimear Richardson, Clare Shillington, Rebecca Stokell, Mary Waldron

World T20 pedigree

Ireland are yet to win a game in the tournament's history, and it's hard to see them breaking the duck in the Caribbean. With no disrespect to their players, many of whom have careers outside the game to sustain themselves financially, it's a blot on the system which has been slow in helping Associate nations rise.

Since Ireland aren't involved in the Women's Championship, like Bangladesh, they're forced to spend time negotiating with other cricket boards for matches. Fortunately, attempts are on to bridge this gap, especially with the Irish government announcing the injection of EUR 1.5 million into high performance sporting organisations. This includes EUR 40,000 in new funding specifically for the women's team ahead of the 2018 World T20. There's also talk of them being inducted into the Championships from the following cycle, which offers a ray of hope.

While all of that will eventually ensure Ireland move forward, it can't mask their struggles in recent times. The T20I they played against New Zealand in June this year was their first one in close to two years. With that massive a gap between matches, no side, let alone the smaller teams, can build momentum.

Recent T20I form

They beat Scotland, Thailand and Uganda to finish atop their group in the Women's World T20 Qualifiers in June. They faltered in the final, though, losing to Bangladesh by 25 runs. Prior to that, they were beaten by New Zealand and Bangladesh at home.

The captain and coach

This is the first time Ireland will have a captain other than Isobel Joyce at the Women's World T20. Laura Delany, Cricket Ireland's Female Player of the Year, led the team in the qualifiers too and her aggressive strokeplay at the top of the order will be crucial in putting oppositions under pressure. She's a handy bowler as well; among her proudest moments on a cricket field is defending eight off the final over in a must-win game against Netherlands in the 2013 World T20 qualifiers.

Aaron Hamilton, a former first-class cricketer from Western Australia, has over two decades of coaching experience. He has been with the side since 2015. In May 2017, he signed a three-year extension that will take him up to the 2020 World T20 in Australia. Fifty-over wins against South Africa, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh stand among his bigger achievements till date. He also works closely with the country's development squad and has a bird's eye view of the stream of talent coming through.

Best players

Kim Garth has matured into a very reliable opener over the years. She has benefited from the Women's Big Bash rookie programme for Associates, having trained with Sydney Sixers and eventually earning a promotion to play with the full squad. In 2016, she became the first - and only - Irish player to have been picked by the ICC in a World XI side.

She's all of 17, but Gaby Lewis has already played over 50 internationals for Ireland. The allrounder was the first player born after 2000 to represent an international team, debuting at just 13 years and 166 days, against Australia. Cricket is in her blood - father Alan Lewis and grandfather Ian Lewis have also represented Ireland. Her sister Robyn Lewis has played alongside her at the club and international level. Lewis honed her skill by being part of the Women's Global Development squad. She has also been part of the WBBL development programme, having trained with Melbourne Renegades, where she has impressed with her lower-order batting and fast legbreaks.

Where will they finish

Placed in a group alongside India, Australia, Pakistan and their recent-tormenters New Zealand, it's hard to see them winning too many matches. If it is their day, they could run Pakistan close, just like their men's team famously did 11 years ago in the Caribbean at a World Cup.