Ireland have announced their squad for the forthcoming World Cup in South Africa.
Clare Shillington will lead the team, with Cecelia Joyce in the supporting role as vice captain for the tournament which starts in March. Shillington, 24, successfully captained Ireland in their World Cup qualification campaign in Holland in 2003. An offspinner and middle-order batsman, she has played in 34 one-day internationals, and this will be her third World Cup. Joyce will add strength with her batting. But her twin sister, Isobel, had to withdraw from contention for the squad, because of studying commitments. Her loss is a real blow, as her batting has proved invaluable in the past.
At 39, the former Ireland captain Miriam Grealey is the team's most experienced player, and this will be her fourth World Cup. "Miriam has worked herself into the squad by sheer guts and absolute determination, where a lot of people might have written her off," the Ireland manager Sandra Dawson told Cricinfo. "But she is still one of our most consistent and experienced bowlers, with an eye on some more world-class scalps".
Ireland head to South Africa on the back of a 3-0 one-day series defeat to the current holders New Zealand in 2004. But Dawson remains upbeat about what Ireland learned from that series. "We got hammered by them, but the squad showed incremental improvement over the three days," she said. "So, that was positive and, as a unit, we took something away from every single game."
While Ireland might not go into the tournament as favourites - Australia, New Zealand, India and England are expected to be the real contenders for the silverware - they have certainly been training hard and will come out fighting in their opening match against the hosts South Africa on March 22. They will then face each of the six other national teams as they aim to qualify for the semi-final stages in April.
Ireland squad Clare Shillington (capt), Cecelia Joyce, Emma Beamish, Caitriona Beggs, Una Budd, Nicki Coffey, Jo Day, Miriam Grealey, Marianne Herbert, Anne Linehan, Barbara MacDonald, Heather Whelan, Jill Whelan, Jillian Smythe.
Reserves Aoife Budd, Ciara Metcalfe, Elaine Nolan, Eimear Richardson.