Amy Hunter has been glued to the Women’s Ashes, watching the engrossing battle on television, but on Sunday she will be in the front-line, opening the batting against the world champions when Ireland play Australia in the first of three one-day internationals at Clontarf.

It is the genuine David v Goliath battle but then Hunter knows all about that type of contest. She has been battling it – and winning – for the last six years ever since breaking into the senior women’s inter-provincial set-up at the precocious age of 11.

The Methodist College student has still one more year at school but already her studies have been interrupted by cricket tours to Pakistan and West Indies and there are certain to be more to come with Ireland now in the ICC Women’s Championship which includes series against seven of the top 10 teams in the world.

Australia have been the best for the last decade – rubberstamped by their retention of the Ashes this week – but Hunter insists this Ireland team is learning all the time and they will be unfazed by taking on Alyssa Healy’s elite squad.

“We have our plans and if the girls execute them on the day then we can compete,” she says. “It will be a tough series, of course, but we definitely have a chance.

“We played them last year in a warm-up ahead of the World Cup (and beat them) so we know their team quite well but we are just back from West Indies and while that series was  disappointing we want to take the learnings from that series and take them into next week.

“At the start of the Championship it was definitely something different for the younger girls in the team, we had never played these bigger sides before, we were used to playing Holland and Scotland, so it’s definitely something new for most of us but I think we have settled in and starting to compete with these sides.

“We have had a couple of a Super Series (women’s inter-pro) games since our return so the girls are in a pretty good spot with their game.”

Hunter had just driven back from Ireland training in Dublin when we spoke, having played for Malahide the previous night.

It’s just one of the many sacrifices the 17-year-old has been forced to make on her way to the top with her friends at home club Instonians the first to miss out on sharing her skills.

“When I was younger I tried any sport possible and with my brothers playing cricket I played a lot with them and they taught me a lot. When you are nine or 10 years-old you pick up things easier than maybe when you a bit older.  

“James and Andrew went to cricket every Friday night at Instonians so dad suggested I go with them.”

Her natural talent quickly propelled her into the Instonians boys’ teams – there was no girls cricket then – and, looking back, Amy believes that was a huge help in her career taking off so quickly.

“Playing with boys helped massively,” she says. “They bowl quicker, the game is played at a higher speed and that helped me make the jump to the senior ladies, I was able to bridge the gap because I was more used to it.”

“Although I played in the Super Series at the age of 11 there were a lot of 12th duties at first and it was the following year before I really broke into the team. It was when I moved to the Typhoons I became a regular.”

Amy admits it was probably from around of age of 11-12 that “I realised if I worked hard I had the potential to play for Ireland so I definitely wanted to make it”.

She made her Ireland debut aged 15 years and 225 days, at Stormont in a T20 international against Scotland but it was cap number seven, her fourth one-day international, against Zimbabwe which announced her arrival not just in the international arena but the world stage.

Promoted to number three, following an injury to Rebecca Stokell, Hunter scored 121, not only Ireland’s highest individual score at the time but Amy was the youngest player, male or female, to score an international century.

“I always backed myself to bat there but credit to the selectors for giving me the chance because I hadn’t shown a lot up to that (previous innings were one and four),” she said at the time.

She hasn’t looked back and has been Gaby Lewis’ opening partner for the last year but on the West Indies tour she was given extra responsibility by head coach Ed Joyce, taking over behind the stumps from the Ireland legend Mary Waldron.

“Ed had told me to stick with my (wicket-)keeping and opportunities would come up, then the day before the final ODI, he told me I would be taking the gloves. I really enjoyed it.”

Hunter has yet to be told if she will be behind the stumps tomorrow but if it is the changing of the guard, Waldron, now 39 but still in the squad, can take all the credit for Amy’s promotion.

“Mary has a done a huge amount for me since I started keeping a couple of years ago. She has taken me through wicket-keeping drills and help me learn a lot which I previously didn’t know,” she laughs.

Despite her age, Amy is now one of the more experienced members of the Ulster-based Dragons side which is making its mark in the Super Series and, although Cara Murray is only other regular member of the Ireland team at the moment, there are now so many more opportunities for players from the province.

“Alana Dalzell and Kia McCartney are in the squad this year and there are more coming through,” adds Hunter. “Players have come on hugely with the help of the Dublin girls. They are learning from Orla Prendergast and Leah Paul and that is massive for us. Everyone has definitely taken huge strides forward since the Dragons started last year.”

Women’s cricket in Ulster is on the up and Amy Hunter is leading the way.