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Kim Garth

Kim Garth

�INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Kim Garth

Just months before Ireland are due to play in the qualifying tournament for next year's Women's World Cup, their star player Kim Garth has signed a two-year contract with Cricket Victoria.

Garth has been spending her winters in Australia for the last four years, and after being named joint Player of the Year in the Victorian Premier League has accepted the chance of a professional career - although the 24-year-old admitted it wasn't an easy decision.

"To leave family, friends and the whole Irish cricket community was a call I did not take lightly," she said. "However, my ambition has always been to be a full-time cricketer and to play at the highest level. A chance like this doesn't present itself too often, so I am keen to seize this opportunity."

Indeed, she can qualify to play for world champions Australia by residency but still hopes to give something back to Irish cricket.

"I am grateful and conscious of the opportunities afforded to me by Cricket Ireland over the years, but I have also learned a lot living and playing cricket in Australia and hope that, at some future time, I can bring this experience home," she said.

Garth's decision could not have come at a worse time for Ireland as she would have been available for the World Cup qualifiers in Sri Lanka had they taken place, as scheduled, next week. But Covid-19 forced the postponement of the tournament and the earliest it can now take place is the autumn when the Australian season will have resumed.

Ireland women's head coach Ed Joyce admitted the two-time Women's Big Bash winner, who has played 114 internationals since the Dubliner's debut as a 14-year-old, will be missed.

"This is obviously a blow, there is no way around that," said Joyce. "To lose one of your leading players any time is a challenge but I can understand Kim's decision and she has been quite open with her ambitions.

"Ambition is a good thing. I want players to be ambitious for Ireland and their careers. However, it will take a few years for us to be in a position to offer our women full-time opportunities."

Belfast Telegraph