Ireland contracts mean so much to me and it came at the right time: Sophie MacMahon

Sophie MacMahon in action © Cricket Ireland/ Oisin Keniry

South Africa are already in Ireland and the limited over series will be important for the hosts for more reasons than one. They will start their first ICC Women’s Championship when they face the Rainbow Nation in ODIs, but before that they will play three T20Is starting from Friday (June 3). Allrounder Sophie MacMahon believes the Irish have evolved as a team and also at the individual level.

“Compared to 2017 I feel like I’m a lot more prepared now when I go out on the pitch. Back when I made my debut, we had a long tour to South Africa, and I remember not knowing any of the players I was playing against. I don’t really remember too much about the tour in terms of the cricket, but I do remember feeling I wasn’t prepared enough for international cricket,” MacMahon said on the eve of the first T20I.

“Over the last few years, I’ve learned so much about my game and about the game itself. Now I know my plans, I know the opposition and what I want to do – so I definitely feel far more confident in my ability.”

MacMahon, who made her debut during the 2017 Quadrangular Series in South Africa, has played five ODIs in her career so far. She also featured in 19 T20Is for Ireland taking 11 wickets at an average of 22.72. When Ireland announced new central contracts, the 25-year-old was one of the players who received a full-time contract.

“The contracts mean so much to me personally. The timing worked out really well, as I just finished a Masters in Physiotherapy – the contract meant that I was able to fully concentrate on cricket without having to get a full-time job and try to balance both cricket and working,” MacMahon said.

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“I’m really proud to play for my country, but that I can now do something that I love and also get paid for it is incredible. I’ve worked really hard over the last couple of years, put in a lot of work and sacrificed a huge amount to get here. So yes, it makes it all worthwhile when you’re able to play at home in front of your friends and family and have that support. It really means a lot.”

Ireland also announced €1.5 million investment when they named seven players in the full-time contract list and nine others in education part-time retainers. There was also another four non-retainer contracts.

“The last few months have been really good, being able to train during the day and not having to rush home from college or work – like a lot of the girls had been doing along with training in the evenings or early mornings – so it’s been great,” MacMahon added.

“We’re able to recover better and spend more time on our video analysis and just have more time with the coaches. It’s definitely helped us prepare a lot better than we usually would so hopefully that shows on the pitch.”

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The inclusion in ICC Women’s Championship for the 2022-25 cycle also means Ireland will be playing at least 24 ODIs in the next three years. MacMahon is excited about the immediate future and feels that it’s amazing period for Ireland cricket.

“It’s a very exciting time to be an Irish cricketer. We’ve obviously wanted more fixtures for a long time, and now we have all these fixtures coming up. It’s amazing to be able to travel to places like Pakistan – somewhere I’d probably never get to go if I didn’t play cricket,” MacMahon added.

“Getting to experience playing the world cup winners, and number one ranked team in the world is just something that I feel very, very lucky to be able to do over the next three years as we fulfil all our fixtures in the ICC Women’s Championship.

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MacMahon was out with injury for three weeks and missed a few matches in the Super Series 50 Cup after getting injured during the first game. She then made a comeback during Scorchers’ win over Dragons. Before getting injured the right-hander scored her first century in club cricket for Leinster.

“That was my first century – it was a long time coming so it was really nice to finally get that out of the way. It’s never nice getting injured. It’s been really hard watching from the side lines, but now I’m just excited to be back on the pitch and getting prepared to get going with the South Africa games.”

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Ireland will be missing a lot of their experienced and young contracted players due to various reasons like injuries, work commitments, and exams. Ireland are without their regular skipper Laura Delany, allrounder Orla Prendergast, and a host of others. But MacMahon hopes that the absence of these stars won’t have an impact in the series and she added that she will relish the opportunity as one of the older players.

“As we have such a young squad at the moment, I am seen as a veteran just because I’m a bit older than the other girls, but it’s so exciting to see the amount of talent we have coming through. It’s great that they will get their chance this summer – especially in this South Africa series when we’re missing a few players. A lot of these younger girls will play bigger roles than they’ve had to previously, but we’re excited to see how they get on and deal with the pressure,” MacMahon concluded.

Ireland: Gaby Lewis (c), Alana Dalzell, Rachel Delaney, Georgina Dempsey, Sarah Forbes, Shauna Kavanagh, Arlene Kelly, Sophie MacMahon, Jane Maguire, Kate McEvoy, Cara Murray, Leah Paul, Celeste Raack, Mary Waldron

South Africa: Sune Luus (c), Anneke Bosch ,Tazmin Brits, Trisha Chetty, Nadine de Klerk, Lara Goodall, Shabnim Ismail , Ayabonga Khaka , Nonkululeko Mlaba, Raisibe Ntozakhe, Tumi Sekhukhune, Andrie Steyn, Chloe Tryon, Delmi Tucker, Laura Wolvaardt