Much to reflect on after a landmark year
The Turkish Airlines Cricket Ireland awards will acknowledge many positives in the game
While the bulk of Irish cricket followers are looking resolutely forward to the new era that comes with the new year, there is still much to be done before 2017 heads back to the pavilion.
At the end of the month the senior men's side fly to Dubai for their last game in Associate competition, taking on the old enemy, Scotland, as the Intercontinental Cup comes to a climax. Ireland's three-in-a-row is unlikely to be extended, however, unless the new enemy, Afghanistan, stumble badly. A three-match ODI series follows between the two newest full members.
But before then, Cricket Ireland will look back on the year that its greatest victory was achieved off the field, in boardrooms in Dubai and London. The elevation to Test status, and all that comes with it, was the result of years of work by administrators led by CEO Warren Deutrom. Preparations are already moving quickly for the first Test, against Pakistan, beginning on May 11.
On the field it was less fruitful, but there were plenty of positives for both senior sides, while the under 19 boys, under captain Harry Tector, qualified for their World Cup in New Zealand in January.
Several players emerged from the year in credit, including Andrew Balbirnie, whose 205 not out and 50 against Netherlands confirmed a great talent; Niall O'Brien, who showed his class with a battling century against New Zealand; and captain William Porterfield, who led from the front in a memorable innings at Lord's, while also making three centuries in 2017.
The women's side missed out on the World Cup in England, but had a couple of satisfying victories over Zimbabwe, and some new players started to press for places.
Next week the great performances are recognised at the Turkish Airlines Cricket Ireland awards, where there is strong competition for the Sunday Independent Aengus Fanning International Emerging Player of the Year Award. Aoife Beggs, Rachel Delaney and Jacob Mulder, who vie for this prestigious award, are profiled alongside.
Porterfield, Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling are short-listed for the senior men's award, while Gaby Lewis, Rachel Delaney and Isobel Joyce vie for the women's prize. A Joyce victory will require a satellite link as the former captain is currently playing for Tasmania.
There are also male and female awards for youth internationals, one between the quartet of Harry Tector, Josh Little, Graham Kennedy and Mitchell Thompson. The female prize will go to Lewis, Amy Hunter or Orla Prendergast, the latter nominated for scoring a brilliant century and taking 5-17 in the Celtic Cup against Scotland.
The Shapoorji Pallonji Academy also nominates in both genders, with new caps Lara Maritz and Leah Paul head-to-head for the award. The male gong will go to James Shannon or Simi Singh, heavy run-scorers last summer and both putting serious pressure on the Ireland top-order.
The Hanley Energy Inter-Pro series attained first-class status in 2017, and George Dockrell, Kevin O'Brien, and James Shannon are contenders for its Player of the Year. Dockrell, who finished second in Division 2 with Trinity and first in Division 1 with Leinster, is front-runner for the club player prize too, where he is up against Nigel Jones and David Rankin. The women's Super 3s award nominees are Kim Garth, Ireland captain Laura Delany and Mary Waldron.
Waringstown, Ballyspallen and Limerick are contenders for the club award, while Dale McDonough, Matt Read and Trevor Hamilton represent the hard-working groundskeepers. The official of the year prize will go to Mary McElwee, Gerard O'Sullivan or Andrew Mooney, while the coaching award contenders are Julie Logue, Kamal Merchant and Ryan Eagleson. Three other awards, the Hall of Fame, Volunteer of the Year, and Outstanding Contribution, will be announced on the night.
The nominations are...
Flogas Male Youth International Player of the Year: Harry Tector, Josh Little, Graham Kennedy, Mitchell Thompson.
Devenish Female Youth International Player of the Year: Gaby Lewis, Orla Prendergast, Amy Hunter.
Notts Sports Groundsman of the Year: Dale McDonough, Matt Read, Trevor Hamilton.
Shapoorji Pallonji Male Academy Player of the Year: James Shannon, Simi Singh.
Shapoorji Pallonji Female Academy Player of the Year: Lara Maritz, Leah Paul.
IAA Official of the Year: Mary McElwee, Gerard O'Sullivan, Andrew Mooney.
Clear Treasury Coach of the Year: Julie Logue, Kamal Merchant, Ryan Eagleson.
Toyota Super 3s Player of the Year: Kim Garth, Laura Delany, Mary Waldron.
O'Neills Club Player of the Year: George Dockrell, Nigel Jones, David Rankin.
Tildenet Club of the Year: Waringstown, Ballyspallen, Limerick.
Hanley Energy Inter-Pro Player of the Year: George Dockrell, Kevin O'Brien, James Shannon.
Hanley Energy Women's International Player of the Year: Gaby Lewis, Rachel Delaney, Isobel Joyce.
Turkish Airlines Men's International Player of the Year: Kevin O'Brien, William Porterfield, Paul Stirling.
Sunday Indo Sport