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Graham Ford resigns as Ireland head coach ahead of USA, West Indies tours

Cricket Ireland high-performance director says Ford wanted to put "his mental health, physical health and family first at this time"

Graham Ford has gone on leave as he observes his contractual notice period with Cricket Ireland  •  Getty Images

Graham Ford has gone on leave as he observes his contractual notice period with Cricket Ireland  •  Getty Images

Graham Ford has stepped down as head coach of the Ireland men's team with immediate effect, with Richard Holdsworth, high-performance director for Cricket Ireland, saying that dealing with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic "has taken its toll and he [Ford] needs a break from the game".
Ireland are getting ready to tour USA in December and then the West Indies in January next year, and Cricket Ireland said in a statement: "Interim coaching plans will be put in place over the coming weeks, while a longer-term plan is developed, which will take into account any recommendations from the current T20 World Cup Review underway."
In the meantime, Ford will be on leave as he observes his contractual notice period that runs until mid-December.
"The last four years have been very special for me - I have enjoyed many happy days with a cricket squad made up of very special people," Ford said. "I have also enjoyed watching club cricket and experiencing the passion and club loyalty of many fine cricketing people.
"When compared with the other ICC Full Member nations, Cricket Ireland has faced many handicaps and challenges. Despite this, on several occasions the team has competed impressively with some of the top teams in world cricket and it has been a privilege for me to experience first-hand the character and togetherness of the Irish players.
"However, over a period of time these challenges and handicaps have taken their toll on me. After much consideration and discussion with my family, I realise that this is the right time for me to step away from Cricket Ireland. I'd like to end by thanking all the players and the support staff for their impressive attitudes and loyal support during the four years and I look forward to watching them achieve big things in the future."
Ford, a South African national, was appointed Ireland head coach in late 2017, initially on a three-year contract that was extended by three years in 2019. He oversaw a transitional phase with the team, that included their Test debut in 2018 and, more recently, the disappointing run at the T20 World Cup.
During Ford's tenure as head coach, Ireland played 101 international matches - 51 T20Is, 47 ODIs, and three Tests. He had also provided insights for the restructuring of the men's inter-provincial set-up, and the regional performance coaching hubs.
Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie thanked Ford for his "consistent positivity". "Graham has been one of the best coaches I have ever worked with, and I feel very fortunate that I got to spend four years working with him, not just for the playing development side of my game, but for his incredible support during my captaincy to date," Balbirnie said. "We have had our challenges over the last number of years as a squad, but his consistent positivity has been infectious and his determination to improve the skills of everyone in the squad has brought some of our young cricketers on leaps and bounds…"
Holdsworth said he respected Ford's decision to put "his mental health, physical health and family first at this time".
"It is a sad day to see Graham bid farewell to Cricket Ireland - he is a truly world-class coach who has incredible respect within the game, both for his achievements on the field and his work in developing players off the field," Holdsworth said. "It would be sugar-coating the occasion to not acknowledge the challenges that Graham has faced - in many respects, unprecedented challenges. The physical and mental impact of the pandemic has been much talked about regarding players, but the coaches and support staff are equally impacted by circumstances…Graham has been a stoic coach, mentor and support for a squad of players dealing with extremely demanding circumstances. And, as he admits himself, it has taken its toll and he needs a break from the game.
"He has barely taken a day off voluntarily in his four years here, such is his commitment, and probably hasn't had a sustained break from the game for well over two decades. The pace, relentlessness and increasing pressures of international cricket - compounded by the impact of the pandemic - are such that we fully understand and appreciate Graham's position."