Last year throughout the second half of the Women’s National League we started posting our regular feature covering Irish women’s football at home and internationally.
This season the aim is to make the Women’s Football Blast a regular feature on our site. Each week we’ll have a look at things domestically in the Women’s Premier Division and Cup competitions, as well as the international sides, Irish players abroad, and highlighting other content produced with a focus on Irish women’s football.
This week we are looking back at the President’s Cup, and looking ahead to the start of the League.
First things first, a recent Post to Post Sport return…
PEIL AND BACK
After a hiatus of over a year and a half we recently relaunched our Irish football podcast. This we uploaded a bumper preview of the 2023 League of Ireland women’s season. Ciarán was joined by Dave, Jessica, and Eileen to look ahead to the huge year in Irish football. The trio of pundits gave their thoughts on the league going semipro, who will be in the title race, and which players could make a bolt for the international squad before or after the World Cup.
All episodes of Peil and Back and any other podcasts we do go up on Spotify and Anchor.
Our new Spotify page looks like this:
We will no longer be uploading things to the old one. Look out for the white Anchor logo on the top right of our logo.
You can listen to our 2023 Women’s LOI Preview on Spotify at the link, and don’t forget to subscribe!
We also upload to Anchor which is Spotifys podcasting site. You can listen on Anchor for free with no sign-up required!
We’ve also done a look ahead to the men’s League of Ireland season which is available on the same podcast cahanels.
Our aim is to have weekly episodes of Peil and Back from April throughout the Irish football season. Keep an eye on our social media for updates and please subscribe to our channel!
Athlone Town Win President’s Cup
What an opener we had to the season. It may be something of a preseason affair, but the President’s Cup didn’t disappoint. It looked for all the world like Shelbourne had the game comfortably won after two early goals, only for Athlone to drag the game to penalties.
The game finished 2-2 with Athlone winning 5-4 on penalties.
The cup final between the sides last season had its share of controversy and there were two contentious moments in the game, both of which occurred in each teams second goal. While Athlone were denied a goal back in Tallaght in November for a disputable offside call, their equalizer involved a handball. This was after Shelbourne’s second goal came from a penalty that was open to question.
Another similarity from the cup decider was Shels managing the first half better, however this time Athlone found their way back in to the game.
Noelle Murray scored the first for Shels, and what will surely be the first of many for her. The league champions were then awarded a penalty after Siobhan Kileen’s cross hit off the arm of Shauna Brennan. It was 2-0 with hardly 15 minutes gone. Athlone got one back through Muireann Devaney against the run of play shortly after the Midland’s sides goalkeeper Nyla Peterkin made a super save. Roisin Molloy got the equalizer in the second half to send the game to penalties. Ciara Glackin had come on as a the sub goalkeeper for Athlone and made two saves in the shootout to ensure Athlone picked up their first ever piece of major silverware.
For the arguable nature of Shelbourne’s penalty and Athlone’s equalizer, the issue is consistency, or in this case, the lack of. Shelbourne were awarded a penalty for the ball striking a defenders arm. The arm in question was in a natural position and there wasn’t anything they could really have done about it. But if the ruling for the year is that if the ball hits a hand or arm at all then it’s a handball, that’s fair enough. That makes the awarding of Athlone’s second goal dubious, because the ball clearly struck an attackers arm. Both instances had no intention to control the ball with the arm, so either both are handballs are neither are handballs. That’s where the issue lies, the application of the law which saw a clear discrepancy in decisions.
It was a thrilling game, and Athlone ensured they will be in the title race discussion for at least the opening parts of the season.
A New Era For The League
As Eileen rightly pointed out on this weeks episode of Peil and Back, the league has long been similar to a semi-professional environment. Players train as a team and individually throughout the week while holding down employment and education. The difference s now there is money involved, at least in most clubs. On the one hand it’s great to see players being compensated for their efforts, but there is a genuine concern that this is all happening a bit fast. We’re not too far removed from the league seeing three dominant clubs hammer the rest weekly, with the aforementioned rest occasionally dropping out of the league. Last season saw the most exciting title race in the leagues history, and it would be a shame to lose the competitiveness of the league, which has increased over the last number of seasons, due to financial imbalance. The FAI will need to step in and ensure teams have the necessary funding to compete and field teams, they are after all our national football association, and though they have long neglected their duties they should be backing domestic football in both the men’s and women’s systems. Surely the money that’s paid for ice-sculptures of the past should be pumped into our domestic leagues from senior to grassroots levels.
While we are entering a new era, it’s important not to forget the work that has been done in the past decade by clubs, coaches, volunteers, and players to keep the league going. It’s fashionable now to support women’s football, but we’re only six years removed from the women’s national side having to go on strike. It’s important in coverage of the league we don’t act like Irish women’s football was invented last year, there were decades of struggle long before there was a league in it’s current guise. Players like Katie McCabe, Denise O’Sullivan, Louise Quinn, Áine O’Gorman and more all came through the domestic league to represent Ireland. If we want continued success and for Irish women’s football to grow beyond the World Cup, we need the support the national team is getting to be more than lip service and bandwagons. Many females players and coaches in football had to suffer to get Irish women’s football where it is, and we should not forget the struggles of the past and become ignorant of the continued support the domestic game needs.
The Season Ahead
With 11 teams taking part in the league one side will be idle each game. There is also the new addition of the League Cup which leads into a lengthy break while the World Cup takes place.
The title race last year involved four teams who will all contend this year too by the looks of things. Shelbourne go in as double winners, Wexford Youths came close to winning the league last season, Athlone Town surprised everyone by coming second, and Peamount United, despite some writing them off, are still a quality side. Add into that a returning Shamrock Rovers, absent from the league for some time, now back in the women’s game having made big moves in the transfer market.
Shamrock Rovers are the big name and the casual onlookers favourites to take the title, but in reality it won’t be straight forward. They’ve but together a strong team, but it’s a team full of players that haven’t played together. It may take them until midseason to really gel, and by then there’s a break. They have a quality goalkeeper in Amanda Budden, and proven goalscorers in Stephanie Zambra and Áine O’Gorman, one of last seasons revelations in Jessica Hennessy, and further quality in Alannah McEvoy, Abbie Larkin, and Savannah McCarthy. That’s a Women’s National League fantasy football team that would get a lot of points, but it remains to be seen if those players will clock as a team, and whether the amounts of money involved get in the way of a good atmosphere.
Wexford Youths are our favourites for the league. They were good last season, and they’ve added to their team well with one of the best defenders in the league Louise Corrigan, one of last seasons top scorers in Emily Corbet, and a returning legend in Rianna Jarrett. They have managed to keep together much of last years team too. Maeve Williams had something of a breakout year in goal last season and will continue to improve, Kylie Murphy can go back to her preferred midfield role, and Ellen Molloy is set to return from injury. There are so many goals in this team, and they are bound to win something this year.
Shelbourne, Peamount, and Athlone have all lost big names who helped them in their quest last season. One takeaway from the President’s Cup game was who will fill in at number 9 for Athlone, with numerous players having a go in that role. Shelbourne looked like world beaters in the first half of last weekends game and pressed very well, but were second best in the second half. Those who write Peamount off are doing so at their peril.
As for the other six sides, it’s hard to know who finishes where. Bohs have signed wisely and Cork City looked a significantly improved team in the latter part of last season. DLR Waves are relying heavily on youth this year having seen an exodus of players. Galway United are under a new identity and may see a fresh set of eyes on them. Sligo will be looking to build on a decent first season, whereas Treaty United will have a chip on their shoulder having not won a game last term.
Fixtures This Week
Women’s Premier Division
Saturday 4th March
Shelbourne vs Cork City
14:00, Tolka Park
Galway United vs Wexford Youths
14:00, Eamonn Deacey Park
Sligo Rovers vs Shamrock Rovers
17:00, The Showgrounds
Treaty United vs Bohemians
17:00, Market’s Field
Athlone Town vs Peamount United
19:00, Athlone Town Stadium
Athlone Town vs Peamount overs an early season title 6-pointer. The champions host a resurgent Cork City side. Bohemians go to a Treaty side looking for a first win in over a year, we have a Rovers derby, and Wexford go to a revamped Galway.
Ireland on the Road
to the World Cup
Ireland played out a good draw against China PR in Marbella, Spain. Louise Quinn was exceptional as usual. There wee nervy moments but also promising signs for Ireland. It’s hard to read into a first friendly of the year but it’s good that the players have had a camp together.
There are four more friendlies scheduled ahead of the World Cup opener against Australia in July. Ireland will play USA twice away from home, and France and Zambia in Tallaght.
Thursday 23rd February
Ireland 0-0 China PR
Saturday 8th April
USA vs Ireland
Tuesday 11th April
USA vs Ireland
Thursday 22nd June
Ireland vs Zambia
Thursday 6th July
Ireland vs France
Since moving on from Shelbourne Ireland international Jamie Finn has been doing well at Birmingham City. She recently played her 150th senior match.
Jamie is a cool-headed defensive player who does well in a holding midfielder role or as a centre-back. She’ll no doubt be in the Ireland squad in Australia come the Summer. Finn is adept at winning the ball back and screening the defense, and will play a key role for Ireland going forward.
Last month on the other side of the Atlantic, Ireland’s superstar Denise O’Sullivan was named as captain for her club NC Courage. Congratulations to an incredible player.
Around the Web!
Here’s some content on Irish women’s football from some of our buddies.
The Other 3 Amigos is a dedicated Cork City podcast, with a regular episode on the women’s side called Las Damas, featuring Eileen who you would have heard on the latest episode of Peil and Back.
Visit TOTAP.ie for all their links and content
The WNL Show is an outlet dedicated purely to Irish women’s football, so naturally they’ve been busy in recent weeks.
Follow @theWNLShow to keep up with their content
Before you go
All season we will be raising money for Ireland’s National Autism Charity As I Am. Visit our Charity Fundraiser Page and follow our progress and read up on our challenges. Every single donation goes a long way.
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