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Retiring hero Ed Joyce inspired a generation: William Porterfield

 

By Ian Callender

Tributes poured in yesterday for Ed Joyce, Ireland's greatest batsman, who has announced his retirement from all cricket just eight days after completing his dream of becoming a Test match player.

The 39-year-old Bray native, who made 151 appearances for Ireland, said he felt "now is the right time to stop playing and get started on a new chapter".

He will take up the position of batting coach in the Cricket Ireland performance system and oversee leadership development.

Joyce's international captain for the last 101 games, William Porterfield, led the tributes.

"It is pretty hard to sum up in just a few words how much of an impact Ed has had on Irish cricket and how much of an all-round great person he is. He is the person from my era that showed that being a professional cricketer was a tangible dream across the water. He inspired a whole generation to show that it is possible," said Porterfield.

"He is someone that I have always looked up to and to have had the opportunity to play with him for the past few years has been an absolute privilege. He will be a great miss in the changing rooms, not only for his runs but the person he is. A lot of us, not least the young lads, have learned so much from him.

"He has had such an amazing career that he can be so proud of over the past 20 or so years. For it to culminate in taking the field for Ireland's first ever Test match was the icing on the cake."

Graham Ford, who has admitted to using his knowledge and experience since he took over as Ireland head coach last December, said: "Ed's brilliant performance statistics show clearly what an outstanding player he has been.

"Sadly his batting qualities will no longer be available to our national team. As the national team coach it is, however, comforting to know that Ed will still be a part of our system and will play a vital role in developing future Irish cricketing stars."

Joyce scored more than 30,000 runs from Test match to county level and was the man who inspired a generation of Irish players to take the plunge into county cricket.

From his home club Merrion, he joined Middlesex and went into the record books in 2001 as the first Irish born and bred player to score a century in the County Championship.

By then, aged 22, he had already played 35 times for Ireland, scoring 60 on debut against Scotland at West Bromwich. It was the start of a stellar international career which was divided into three parts.

First, with Ireland from 1997-2005 when he almost single-handedly helped them reach the World Cup for the first time, averaging a Bradman-esque 99.75 in the qualifying tournament, before the lure of Test match cricket - which Ireland had no sight of that stage - forced him to declare for England.

He made his one-day international debut against Ireland at Stormont in 2006 and faced them again at the 2007 World Cup but, despite scoring his first ODI century against Australia in Sydney, the Test match call never came.

With that ambition ruled out, Joyce returned to Ireland in time to play in the 2011 World Cup, including the memorable win against England in Bangalore.

He has been an ever-present in all three formats since and, although the aching bones were telling the 39-year-old to stop playing - crucially, he missed Ireland's last two games in this year's World Cup qualifying tournament - he was never going to turn down the chance to play in Ireland's first Test.

Joyce admitted he had never been more nervous than when batting in the first innings against Pakistan, but he showed all his class in the second innings, only to be run out for 43 in what was always going to be his last game.

His final figures for Ireland are also in a class of their own, top of the batting averages in all three formats until he slipped behind Eoin Morgan in the first class games after his first-innings 'failure' in the Test.

There will be one more chance for his current Ireland team-mates, who yesterday each tweeted the "honour of playing alongside him", to play for him when Ireland face his most recent county, Sussex, at Arundel on June 24, Joyce's testimonial.

Rarely has been one so richly deserved.

Ed Joyce factfile

Name: Edmund Christopher Joyce

Age: 39 years 245 days

Born: September 22, 1978

Teams: Ireland, England, England Lions, Ireland Wolves, MCC, Merrion, Middlesex, Sussex, Leinster Lightning

Career figures: First class 18,461 runs Av 47.95 HS 250

Total: 657 games, 30,181 runs, Av 41.86 HS 250

Ireland career

First class: 12 games 1,153 runs Av 54.90, HS 231

ODIs: 61 games, 2,151 runs Av 41.37 HS 160*

T20Is: 26 games 586 runs Av 30.84, HS 78*

Total: 151 games, 5,552 runs Av 40.82 HS 231

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