Out but not down, Joyce looks ahead
Back in the late 1980s, a few of us who had been in college together used to meet up every Sunday night. The weekends would be autopsied - the gigs we'd enjoyed, the matches we'd played or watched.
One of us, Steven, played cricket with Merrion's 6th XI but only because they didn't have a 7th. Nobody paid much heed as he regaled us with tales of his brief innings, and about this amazing family from Bray who were starting to make their way up the ranks. Every week it was all about Gus or Damien or Johnny, until one day he came into the pub with eyes ablaze.
"There's a new one," he gabbled. "He's only eight but, seriously, he's the best of them all. Remember his name - Ed Joyce." We all take heed now when Steven talks cricket.
Ed Joyce's story is the story of Irish cricket over the last quarter of a century, from humble beginnings here to winning respect abroad and ending at the pinnacle of the sport - as a Test cricketer.
As a boy, Ed fondly recalls trips down to Wexford and Bagenalstown with his father, Jimmy, and oldest brother, Johnny, who played for Bray. One day Johnny decided to move. "He worked out Merrion was the closest club to us - we didn't know about the short-cut to Pembroke off the Dart!"
His first coach was Londoner Mikey Thompson - "I spoke to a guy recently who says Mikey always says he was my first coach, which is nice that someone thinks that's important." Chris Gibson and Eddie Lewis also had major roles but "I probably learned most of it in the back garden with my brothers."
A stellar youth career and an Ireland cap at 18 brought opportunities. "I played a game for Middlesex 2nds but didn't enjoy it. A couple of years later I went back and it was a much younger crop of guys, like Jamie Dalrymple and Andrew Strauss, and there was a nice feeling around the team.
"Straight after the game they offered me a contract and I thought 'this is great, I'm going to Trinity in October and will have a bit of cash for the rest of year'. So, for the next few years I was in Trinity for nine months and went over for the summer. It was actually a really good introduction as I never put any pressure on myself, it's a great way to start playing anything professionally, not having that expectation. I was still trying hard but my life didn't depend on it.
"By the end of Trinity I knew I was going to play cricket for the whole season and I had already played some first team games so I knew I could do it."
Joyce kicked off a wave of young Irishmen into county cricket.
"I'm proud that me going there meant people started looking to Ireland for talent because that wasn't the case before. I didn't realise until I went over that I could compete. I'm proud I opened that door but the guys that followed had to step through it."
On Thursday, nine days after his Test debut, Joyce announced that would be his last game and he would be taking on a coaching and leadership role with Cricket Ireland (CI).
"I'm not a particularly emotional person but I love that we'd got to that stage and that it was my last game, but I also worry what happens if we don't keep doing well, how we're going to get guys up to speed without county cricket to finish them off."
As one of the world's finest batsmen, passing on his skills will be invaluable to Ireland.
"I've already gone on a Wolves tour to Bangladesh as batting coach so I'm looking to specialise in that and get working with individuals as well as in a mentoring role. I want to get a lot more volume into our players; I don't think we hit enough balls and we don't do enough training. The new national centre will help that.
"I captained a lot in England and played under a lot of different captains, so CI want me to head up a leadership group for the men's, women's, and underage teams. It's exciting - William (Porterfield) has done the job for so long there's possibly a bit of a vacuum behind him. It's important we have a few guys and girls who have experience of different conditions and situations.
"I was keen not to get involved in the senior men's side as we already have a really good team there. My passion is working with the Wolves and the 19s and 17s, and the women's side."
Joyce will "probably" strap on the pads one last time next month at Arundel in Sussex, where he played for eight summers. Ireland are the T20 opposition as part of his testimonial but he is passing on all funds raised to a number of charities. He also has a dinner at the Guinness Storehouse on June 28 in aid of cricketing causes, details from email@example.com.
But, last week as he looked out across the Merrion ground where it all began, he admitted there was one box he'd liked to have ticked: "I'd have loved to get a Test hundred. That Monday morning I felt great when I went out but, well, that's the way it is."
Sunday Indo Sport