In a last-minute move which has forced the ECB to frantically rejig this summer’s fixture list, Ireland have stunningly withdrawn from the Women’s County Championship and Women’s T20 Cup.
Ireland have been part of the English “county” scene since 2012 – a project which was intended to give their international players a boost by playing more regularly against higher quality opposition than was possible within their own domestic setup.
But it was an expensive undertaking. Unlike the English counties which are subsidised by the ECB, Ireland have had to bear the full costs of participation themselves, including playing all their fixtures “away”, adding to the financial burden of flights and hotel rooms; and CRICKETher understands that this was the major factor behind their decision to quit.
But equally, given that Ireland have qualified for the past two World T20s, not to mention giving Australia some good games last summer, perhaps it could also be argued that the initiative had successfully run its course.
Plus as previously reported on CRICKETher, the ECB had already announced that their participation would end in 2018 anyway, following the introduction of the Super League in England.
As a result of Ireland’s withdrawal, their Divisions (Division 2 of the County Championship and Division 1 of the T20 Cup) will now consist of just 8 teams, with only one side being relegated – though given the changes coming in 2017, the matter of relegation is perhaps somewhat academic.
Additionally, the Division 1 T20 fixture list has been extensively rejigged. The “triple-header” format, where 3 teams all play each other on a single day, is retained overall; but with each county now having one single-header against a “local” rival.