Balbriggan girl Lara is a big hit in the West Indies
Seventeen-year-old Lara Maritz admits she won't forget 2018 in a hurry, having made her full senior international cricket debut against New Zealand in June as well as being picked for the recent T-20 World Cup in the West Indies.
Talented Lara attends Loreto Secondary School in Balbriggan and is currently playing with Clontarf, having started out at The Hills as a nine-year old and had a stint with Malahide.
Lara, who was born in South Africa, moved to Ireland as a four-year-old with her mother Chantelle, father Eksteen and her siblings, including her twin sister Tess. She caught the cricket bug after a suggestion from her father that she should join The Hills Cricket Club close to her home.
Lara, a right-arm medium bowler, showed immediate promise and soon became one of the finest underage players at the club. By the age of 16 her excellent performances had caught the attention of the Ireland selectors.
She made her Women's One Day International (ODI) debut against India in the 2017 South Africa Quadrangular Series on May 7th 2017 and had her first Twenty20 International start against New Zealand in June this year.
When the Irish squad was announced for the qualifying tournament in Holland for the 2018 ICC Women's World Twenty20 tournament in the West Indies, Lara was picked for it - much to her surprise.
'I was actually a bit surprised, to be honest, to get the call for the qualifiers as it was between myself and another girl and I honestly thought she would get it.
'To be asked to represent Ireland at a major tournament was a huge honour for me and when we actually qualified for the West Indies World Cup it was such a great feeling.'
You would be forgiven for thinking that being brought into the Irish set-up at such a young age would hold some fears for the teenager, but according to Lara she took it all in her stride.
'I'm very fortunate that I never actually get nerves when I'm about to play in a game. I was actually really relaxed going into the Irish set-up and the girls in the Irish squad were so welcoming and friendly and it just all felt really natural.
'For me cricket is a wonderful sport, particularly because of the team element. I could never play an individual sport like golf as for me, being part of a team is very special. The culture amongst the Irish squad is wonderful. We all work so hard, but we also really enjoy each other's company.
'The coaches are also fantastic and before we went to the West Indies I was told not to be too sad if I didn't get to play any matches. Just being with the squad and seeing how a major tournament is run was always going to be huge for my development, even if I didn't get any minutes on the pitch.
'As it turned out I managed to play two of the four games over there, which was such a thrill for me. I played against India and New Zealand who are two of the best teams in the world. I feel this whole experience is going to bring my game to the next level and I'm really excited for the future,' stated Lara.
'The game is in a good place right now and there is money being pumped into the ladies game here in Ireland, so I really feel the future is bright.
'Hopefully this is just the start of my journey with the International team and if I can continue to improve I hope to gain many more caps for Ireland.'