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Joyce is delighted to commit to Ireland's bid for Test status

By Ian Callender

Ed Joyce is the latest big name to commit full-time to Ireland and will play in the Inter-provincial Championship for Leinster Lightning next year.

At 38 he is the oldest member of the Ireland squad, but with Test cricket a realistic proposition in the next two years he is determined not to miss out a second time having been overlooked by England during his time with the Three Lions when his highlight was a one-day international century against Australia in Sydney.

Rated by many as one of the best batsmen never to play at the highest level, he has stepped back from full-time cricket with Sussex - although he may play the occasional County Championship game when time permits - but Ireland will have first call on his services.

"With Ireland's fixture list growing year on year it makes sense to come back at this stage," said Joyce. "Also, now that the inter-pros have first-class and list-A status, I wanted to be involved right from the start and lend my experience to that competition.

"We're at the stage where we need to be more consistent and competitive as an international side and we also require the inter-pros to improve and provide a steady stream of players ready to perform well for Ireland.

"My focus in the next few years while I'm still playing is to help us achieve both of these goals. Test cricket is the greatest ambition for any cricketer. Ireland has a huge opportunity to play at the highest level in the coming years and I want to be a part of that journey."

Joyce will join Niall O'Brien, who recently announced his retirement from county cricket, in an already formidable-looking Lightning squad which will have first call on nine of the 19 Ireland-contracted players and half of the 12 Cricket Ireland Academy players, who were also announced yesterday.

In all there are 10 Category A players including, for the first time, CIYMS leg spinner Jacob Mulder, and in the Category B list (for county players and those with other employers) is Waringstown schoolteacher Greg Thompson, who returned to the Ireland set-up in September for the first time since 2008, along with O'Brien.

It was also confirmed yesterday that Ireland Wolves is the new name for the joint Academy and 'A' team which will play fixtures next year against a Bangladesh XI, a tri-nation ODI series in Dublin, a three-day game against Scotland 'A', three-day and T20 clashes with county 2nd XIs and an autumn tour against a Full Member country.

Pete Johnston, Acting Academy and Performance Manager, who will lead the 12-man Senior squad, said: "The Senior Academy is now a finishing school for our 'next cabs off the rank' while Ryan Eagleson will continue to develop our emerging talent."

Category A contracts: J Anderson, A Balbirnie, P Chase, G Dockrell, E Joyce, A McBrine, J Mulder, K O'Brien, S Thompson, C Young

Category B contracts: B McCarthy, T Murtagh, N O'Brien, W Porterfield, S Poynter, B Rankin, P Stirling, G Thompson, G Wilson

Further incremental contracts will be announced in due course.

Shapoor Pallonji Academy - Senior Group: R Anders, A Dennison, T Kane, J Little, J McCollum, R McKinley, D Rankin, J Shannon, S Singh, Nat Smith, J Tector, L Tucker

Emerging Group: A Austin, J Carson, V Chopra, S Doheny, JJ Garth, A Gillespie, J Grassi, F Hand, G Kennedy, S Murphy, M Neville, N Rock, H Tector, M Topping, F Tucker.

There will also be seven girls in this group, to be announced in due course.

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