THE BUS ÉIREANN FAI Women’s National League (WNL) returned on August 26 for its second term as the game of women’s soccer in Ireland continues to evolve and progress at an incredible rate.
In November 2011, six teams – Peamount United, Raheny United, Cork Women’s FC, Wexford Youths Women’s AFC, Castlebar Celtic and Shamrock Rovers – began their WNL journey and by the inaugural season’s end Peamount topped the pile winning the division by three points from second-placed Raheny.
This term DLR Waves, a Dún Laoghire/Rathdown-based club, joined the sextet and following a senior international break in which Republic of Ireland completed their unfortunately ill-fated Uefa Women’s Euro 2013 Group 4 Qualifying campaign, the third round of domestic fixtures will be played this Sunday.
Peamount United’s Louise Quinn, Julie-Ann Russell, Stephanie Roche and Sara Lawlor as well as Megan Campbell and current top national league scorer with four goals Rebecca Creagh, both of Raheny United, and Cork Women’s FC’s Denise O’Sullivan were all selected by manager Sue Ronan for the international double-header against France and Israel.
Having seven domestic league players picked for Ronan’s most recent 19-player squad illustrates how successful the WNL has already been in such a short space of time. And based on the high standard of fare on offer at venues in Dublin, Wexford, Cork and Mayo each weekend in the division thus far there will be many others pushing for senior international recognition too.
The WNL, a league that is backed by Uefa and FIFA, features three matches each Sunday with all seven teams playing a total of 18 matches in the season. After two rounds of games in the current campaign, Raheny occupy top spot on goal difference from Peamount.
Below we explain the story so far for each of the WNL protagonists:
Manager: Eileen Gleeson.
Captain: Louise Quinn.
PEAMOUNT UNITED, led by clinical attackers WNL Player of the Year Sara Lawlor and WNL Golden Boot Stephanie Roche, were crowned champions last term and are the flagbearers of women’s club soccer in Ireland.
Between them, Lawlor (15) and Roche (24) netted 39 of Peamount’s remarkable tally of 66 goals last season en route to the side earning 36 points from 15 outings and they have notched five in their two opening games in wins against Wexford Youths Women’s AFC (4-1) and Castlebar Celtic (2-0).
Eileen Gleeson’s unit are defensively solid too and are also the defending WNL League Cup champions.
Manager: Ger McDermott
Captain: Mary Waldron
TWO of the three losses incurred by Peamount last season were inflicted by Dublin rivals Raheny United and Ger McDermott’s outfit are the realistic challenger to the former side’s national supremacy.
Raheny defeated Peamount 4-1 at home, 2-0 away but lost 1-0 on April 8 at Morton Stadium, virtually guaranteeing the title would be heading to the Greenogue-based club.
Yet there appears to be ferocious motivation within their camp to achieve their main goal and with Megan Campbell, Seana Cooke and Rebecca Creagh leading their charge, Raheny’s extra bite could be telling.
Cork Women’s FC
Manager: Maurice Farrell
Captain: Emma Farmer
CORK WOMEN’S FC finished third last season and their main objective is to erode a 13-point gap that existed between themselves and Raheny.
Now led by 2004 All-Ireland Club SHC medal winner Maurice Farrell, Cork were dominant against teams outside of the Big Two in the previous term but in their second year as a club — dissimilar to the longevity of other clubs Cork Women’s FC was founded in 2011 — the Leesiders, with captain Emma Farmer, midfielders Amy McCarthy and Sarah O’Donovan and attacker Denise O’Sullivan will be a formidable outfit.
Wexford Youths Women’s AFC
Manager: John Flood.
Captain: Nikki Dunphy.
THE Ferrycarrig Park-based Slaneysiders are a progressive unit under the tutelage of shrewd supremo John Flood and they bounced back from an opening day reverse to Peamount to beat newcomers DLR Waves before the international break.
Wexford ended last season in fourth four goals inferior to Cork but in Cherelle Khassel, another attacker that featured prominently in recent Republic of Ireland senior squads, they possess a classy offensive talent.
Defender Jessica Gleeson and midfielder Linda Douglas are other examples of players expected to impact on the WNL again this season.
Manager: Johnny Morris-Burke.
IN last year’s WNL Young Player of the Year Emma Hansberry and the division’s third highest scorer Emma Mullin Castlebar Celtic have two of the country’s finest operators. Having been designated the league’s ‘free’ team on the opening weekend Castlebar faced into their first game of the new term against Peamount without a competitive outing under their belts and lost 2-0 but with midfielder Hansberry and striker Mullin, a player that netted 13 times last season, Johnny Morris-Burke’s westerners will be a force this season.
They can improve on their previous fifth-place finish.
Manager: John Walsh
Captain: Carol Conlon
JOHN WALSH’S Hoops should begin to realise their potential following a tough opening season in which they won just one of their 15 league encounters.
However, Shamrock Rovers are another club that were founded prior to the 2011/12 season and so are still in the early stages of their development.Yet with the management team they have assembled behind them the only way is up for Rovers.
Walsh is assisted by ex-Arsenal player Gráinne Keirns, goalkeeping coach David Bourke and physiotherapist Kevin Sheerin. On the field, Rachel Jenkins will be steering their ship.
Manager: Larry Mahony
Captain: Sylvia Gee
NEWCOMERS DLR Waves faced a baptism of fire in their two opening matches unfortunately losing to Raheny and Wexford but with the experienced Larry Mahony at the helm they will prosper in time.
Situated along Glenamuck Road, Kilternan, Dublin, Jackson Park will play host to DLR Waves’ home encounters and with massive numbers playing women’s soccer in the area the club are bound to go from strength to strength.
Defenders Lucia Espana de Cordoba and Niamh Connolly, midfielder Sylvia Gee and attacker Laura Daniel are sure to feature prominently for them.
Peter McNamara will write about the WNL, twice a week, for the rest of the season.