2017 has been a landmark year for Irish cricket.
In addition to the senior side’s historic elevation to full test status by the ICC in June, the Irish U19s recently gave cricket in the country another boost with their remarkable qualification for the 2018 World Cup in New Zealand.
Peter Johnston’s men picked up an impressive, 6 victories from 6 games to earn the top spot in their qualifying group and with it, a place in the World Cup finals in New Zealand next summer.
At the heart of the side is 17-year-old captain Harry Tector. “Yeah, we’re delighted obviously” said Tector, speaking about his side’s 1st place finish in their qualifying group. “There were many stages where your questioning whether you’ll be going (to the World Cup), to come out of those games having won from such tight situations was amazing.”
The YMCA all-rounder was instrumental in Ireland’s crucial last qualifying game against Scotland, putting up an invaluable half century at the crease to drag his side to victory, with defeat seemingly on the horizon.
“At one stage during the game I think we were 47-8” began Tector. “So, when I was out there I was thinking if I can bat for as long as possible and get as high a score as possible because I wasn’t thinking too far ahead to be honest.”
“I was just thinking take it as deep as possible, try to bat as close to all the 50 overs as possible and try to get a score that we can defend and I thought out there if I could get us to 120 or 130 we’d have a shot, unfortunately we got 108 which I knew was defendable the manner in which we did it at the end we needed 15 runs with 5 wickets in hand”
“It was incredible really the scenes at the end of the game were extraordinary”
Tector was also quick to praise the performance of his teammates over the course of the qualifying campaign and feels that with the quality his side possess, Ireland could make a big splash in New Zealand next summer.
“The guys really were incredible like they did everything asked of them and more it was a fantastic win”
“I think we’ve 7 or 8 guys who’ve already played inter pro cricket over here in Ireland so there’s a lot of experience in the squad, obviously a lot depends on seeing our group but we want to beat the likes of New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and I do believe we can do that.”
“We have hard months of work ahead of us getting fit and getting stronger, there’s a lot of talent in this group and I firmly believe we can make a splash over there and do what no Irish under 19 side has done and get into the top 8 group and as I say I firmly believe we can do that.”
Like many other young cricketers in Ireland, Tector has taken inspiration in the constant progression of the sport in the country over the last number of years.
In June of this year Cricket Ireland were awarded their full test status by the ICC after a decade long campaign, and with funding set to double to €40 million over the next 8 years, the game is garnering more mainstream attention than ever before.
“I feel like cricket in Ireland as a whole has gotten a lot bigger” says Tector.
“When I started playing I got introduced to the game at around 7 or 8 by my mum, she got me playing through primary school, and then it was big but it was never recognised outside of the cricketing circle, people wouldn’t have had much of an idea what cricket was but now you’ll go around and people will be aware that the cricketers are doing well.”
“A visible difference I think now is that everyone sort of has a concept of cricket in Ireland. I really do feel like the game is growing and it continues to grow I think it’s doubling its numbers every year or something like that so it’s great to part of the growth in Ireland and hopefully it keeps going that way.”
The Dalganey native also outlined how the dream of professional cricket for many young players is much more attainable now, than it was in years previous.
“Growing up you dreamed of being a professional cricketer for Ireland and that was a bit of a pipe dream but now you really can look at cricket in Ireland as a career path” begins Tector.
“That’s the dream really to be a professional cricketer and that’s very much a possibility now with test cricket. To be travelling the world playing test cricket with Ireland, that’s a dream of mine and a dream of many other young players and now that’s very much a reality.”
Parallel to Tector’s success as a youth international is his domestic career, at Dublin based cricket club YMCA. Tector has been involved with the Sandymount club since the age of 8 and is now an established member of their first team squad, picking up an impressive 516 runs from 20 games this campaign.
“Personally, I’m really enjoying my cricket” he explains. “It’s been my first year on the first team, I’ve played first team cricket for 3 seasons, but this’ll be my first year really being involved in the side as more of a senior player and personally I’m loving it, it’s a great team to play in.”
Tector’s older brother Jack, who was recently called up to the senior Irish squad, along with his father, are both also heavily involved in YMCA. The Irish U19s captain explained how the coaches at the club, in particular, the Head of Youth coaching Kamal Merchant, have done so much to help both himself and his family.
“YMCA have been so good to us” says Tector. “The coaches down there, especially Kamal Merchant, he’s done so much, not just for me, but for my family and everyone in YMCA, personally I wouldn’t be half the cricketer I am without him, but yeah as a family we’re fully involved.
With full test status for the Irish senior side and the U19 World Cup on the horizon it’s set to be an exciting period for Tector and all involved in Irish cricket. The young man however is remaining grounded. His plans for the future?
“Keep working hard and hopefully the results will come”