Richard has a BSc degree in Sports Studies from the University of Gloucestershire (1992). In 2011 he was appointed Performance Director of Cricket Ireland. He currently sits on the ICC Global Development Committee, the European Cricket Advisory Committee, and is the Youth Rep of the European Cricket Committee.
FIS: It has been a really busy and successful year for Cricket Ireland, what have been the highlights for you?
RH: Our main objectives for the year were to win three senior trophies and qualify for three world cups – and we did just that. The Women’s and Men’s senior teams qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March this year, and the men have qualified for the ICC World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. The men also won the 4-day competition – the ICC Intercontinental Cup for the third time in four competitions. We hosted Pakistan and England in one day international at home, the latter in front of 10,000 supporters in Malahide on a school day in September, which was a great achievement. We expected to compete well in these, and ties one match and lost narrowly against Pakistan whilst for much of the match versus England we competed strongly and were in a great winning position until the England captain (former Irish player Eoin Morgan), took the game away from us. In all we were very pleased with the way we performed.
FIS: What changes did you make or systems did you put in place when you first took up your role with Cricket Ireland?
RH: Once understanding the current systems and processes, it was a case of implementing a number of strategic aims in high performance which management, the CI Board and other stakeholders had identified. These included review and restructuring our player contracts; producing a 4-year high performance plan submitted to both sports councils and institutes of sport (which helped gain high performance status); finding funding for and establishing a new Inter-Provincial structure of three formats; establishing a new National Cricket Academy; and recruiting and training staff for these new initiatives. A pretty hectic first year, but it has set Cricket Ireland on a path to success, plugged some key gaps in our player pathway and will help ensure we do not lose more players to England.
FIS: The Vision of 2020 is to have reached 8th in the world ODI rankings by 2015. We are now the start of 2014, do you think this goal is possible? How long does it take to reach the top of the ranks?
RH: With Ireland not involved in the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP) at present we are not assured of any internationals with the full members (top 10), so it is a case of encouraging them to play us and working hard with relationships. The best opportunities come at the World Cup (which Ireland has qualified for the last three events), and in 2015 we are assured six matches in the first phase of which five are against full members; we also play the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the next four months. A few wins from these matches would make a huge impact on our position in the global rankings, and we go into these games expecting to win these days not just turning up and being competitive.
FIS: What advice would you give to any young athlete hoping to make a career in high performance cricket?
RH: Like any sport at an elite level – hard work, commitment, a winning mind-set, patience, motivation, and a passion for the game are crucial. There are now many more opportunities in Ireland to become an elite cricketer and make a career in the game. Clubs and Provincial Unions have good coaching these days and there are representative youth teams from under 11 upwards. The new senior Inter- Provincial structure allows players to play semi-professionally and train and play at a high level. With 24 player contracts at senior level and 21 players with Academy contracts, there is no a pathway in this country or any young player to benefit from world class coaching and player support services to help them develop.
FIS: Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us, finally what are Cricket Ireland’s goals for the High Performance cricket system over the coming years?
RH: Our women’s senior team are hoping to gain a win against the full members (who are fully professional) in the ICC World Twenty20 in March in Bangladesh, and the men hope to win their group and progress to the 2nd stage and defeat two full members at least and a chance of a semi-final spot in the same event. We have Sri Lanka coming to Dublin in early May and we expect to win at least one of those one-day internationals. Then our preparations for the 2015 World Cup will be in full swing in October when we have a tour to New Zealand and Australia, after which we are targeting a top 3 finish in our group of 7 in the World Cup. A big 12 months!