Friday 18 October 2019

Waldron the multi-tasker with a safe pair of hands

Mary Waldron in action against West Indies in May. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mary Waldron in action against West Indies in May. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Marie Crowe

There is very little hype surrounding the achievements of Mary Waldron but that doesn't diminish them.

As well as being one of only eight women to be appointed to the International Cricket Council's development panel of umpires she is also Ireland's number one wicket-keeper with more than 100 caps and has recently been given a semi-professional cricket contract from Cricket Ireland.

This all comes after Waldron made waves as a soccer player, playing right up through the underage ranks, then making the senior team before opting to focus on cricket.

"There are six of us who are on professional part-time contracts since May, so outside of the sevens and hockey I don't think there is any other sport that is like that for women here," says Waldron.

"A lot of credit has to go to Cricket Ireland for taking that step, it sends a huge message for the sport in Ireland. Our player base comes largely from Leinster and we need to grow that so I'd love all the Camogie players in Ireland to give cricket a shot."

Having a contract means that Waldron can dedicate her time to improving as a player. She incorporates her gym work, skills, running and fielding sessions into the days that she dedicates to cricket.

Mary Waldron with the trophy after captaining Raheny United to the Women’s National League title. Photo: Sportsfile
Mary Waldron with the trophy after captaining Raheny United to the Women’s National League title. Photo: Sportsfile

"It's working out well, especially not having to go to work after doing training. The recovery has been so much better because we have the time to do it. There are two and three-day contracts so we have different schedules but so far so good."

In recent months professional female athletes have been under the spotlight for highlighting the lack of maternity benefits in their contracts.

Americans Allyson Felix and Alysia Montano were among a group of high profile athletes who spoke out against Nike for cutting their pay during pregnancy.

Cricket Ireland are very early in their journey to professionalism and Waldron is confident that her association would be proactive about introducing maternity benefit.

"As someone who is on the Players Association I can bring these issues up with Cricket Ireland. We get health insurance which is brilliant, I don't think there is anything about maternity in it but I will have to check.

"In terms of the contract, it is very new around the world, we are probably a bit behind the likes of Australia on that but I think we will get there and during our contract negotiations Cricket Ireland were very open-minded. I can't imagine there would be an issue."

But is having a child during a professional sports career a difficult decision to make?

"With a lot of sports you will be out for around 12 months of the contact. Cricket involves a ball so that is something to think about.

"It seems like you're jeopardising your career if you decide to have a baby but people do it all the time in sports and it is becoming more normal which is a good thing."

On the days that Waldron isn't dedicated to cricket she works in administration with the players' association. However, she only does that for half the year as she spends six months playing and umpiring in Australia.

"I fell into umpiring a little bit by accident. I did a course - a basic one in Australia - and then I came home and was a cricket development officer.

"When I went back to Australia after that summer I asked them could they train me up properly as an umpire and they did. So now every time I go back I umpire and play so I'm doing it all year around."

There are very few women umpiring cricket but Waldron isn't fazed by the lack of female representation.

Last year she became the first woman to umpire a men's A match in Ireland and this past February she was part of the first female duo to take charge of a men's first grade Premier (club) match in Australia.

Being on the Cricket Council's development panel of umpires is set to drive her career further.

"It means that I am on their radar. They assess me and I get reports and I get access to their online support system. Basically, I work my way up through the ranks with them and I will get opportunities then for big games."

So far Waldron has yet to find herself at the receiving end of any special treatment because of her gender.

"I'm treated equally by the association, Cricket Leinster here and Cricket Ireland. Out on the pitch I don't ever get anyone saying anything about me being a woman. I do get a bit of grief every now and then but it's not specifically because I'm a woman it's because they don't agree with my decision."

Last month Cricket Ireland announced that former international star Ed Joyce was appointed as the interim head coach of the Ireland Women's cricket team. He will take charge of the team through to the ICC Women's T20 World Cup Qualifier which starts in August, and for Waldron it's a welcome appointment.

"He's brilliant, we have met him for one-on-one batting sessions," she reveals.

"I've been away so I haven't had a squad session yet but any chats I've had with him, they have been very positive."

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