Donegal U17 women set to kickstart their season

By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)

After last weeks postponement the Donegal Women’s League will finally kick off their U17 league campaign this weekend with a long trip to the capital on Sunday to face Shamrock Rovers.

This will be their second season at the elite level, and they will have a new manager, as Brid McGinty has replaced Johnny Baird. McGinty was Baird’s assistant last season so knows exactly what challenges will face the girls heading into the campaign.

McGinty said: “We faced many challenges last season but player development was the main priority. As we have a small pool of players it was quite difficult at the beginning, however the commitment and enthusiasm from the girls always encouraging.

“I knew that the standard of the players was always improving and with so many underage Internationals in different squads it was going to be a big challenge for us in Donegal. The biggest lesson we learned was that for the smallest mistake you got punished.”

McGinty has been involved in the game in Donegal for many years, growing up with it through her father Thomas.

“My father was coaching a local schoolboys team. At the time girls could train with the boys but couldn’t play in the league and there were no structures in place for girls to play in matches. In 1994 the Donegal Women’s League was established which gave girls a platform to play matches. I played for a local team at that time.

“The underage structure started in 2005 where I managed my local club Lagan Harps. I would have also got involved in the league administration as treasurer, and representative to the WFAI Council. I have subsequently taken up role as league Secretary and currently Chairperson to the North West Regional FAI Committee and Vice Chairperson to the FAI Women’s Football Committee.”

McGinty had lots of success early in her coaching career, coaching/managing the Ulster U14 team in 2007 to win the Gaynor Cup, and in 2009 she was the manager of the Ulster U13 Gaynor Cup winning side. At National Level she managed Lagan Harps to win the FAI Intermediate Women’s Cup in 2010, along with the Lagan U14s reaching the National Cup Final in 2011. In 2014 the Ladies won the FAI Junior Cup, in 2017 the U18 girls reached the U18 national cup final and last year the U12 girls won the FAI U12 Cup.

The coach mentions those who helped her throughout her career: “I was delighted to have been guided by Gabriel Crawford and Gerard McGarrigle in my earlier years as manager and now with John Canning and Benny Doherty. I completed my UEFA B last year through the FAI Female only course and we all still stay in contact.”

The coaching route is one she would wholeheartedly recommend to young girls: “Definitely, the experience and knowledge that these girls can give the next generation can only help develop the stars of the future.”

It’s been a long wait to get their season underway but the squad are chomping at the bit to get started this weekend: “The squad has now gone through two pre-seasons and unfortunately still haven’t kicked a ball. However, with the current climate all precautions need to be in place and the girls are just itching to get started. This years squad is based throughout the whole of Donegal, not just from within the Donegal Woman’s League clubs. We have fours players signed in from the Inishowen Women’s League and also a player from Sligo. Due to our geographic location we find it a struggle competing for the player who grew up playing in Donegal and Inishowen, with many opting to play with the teams in bordering clubs in Northern Ireland.”

What are you looking for from the season ahead: “To find our level, and see if we can develop the girls to be recognised for international assessments. Also playing in the National League, scholarships are always an avenue for the girls to further their careers and also have a good education behind them for the future careers. The LYIT in Letterkenny has over the last few years given quite a lot of scholarships to the girls soccer.

“The season isn’t about me, it’s all about the players, seeing them develop and enjoying the game is the rewards that I will be looking for. To be honest, at the minute to get a few games played will be a bonus for all the hard work the players have done over the last few weeks and months.

I asked her if there were any players we should look out for this season, and she was understandably very diplomatic with her answer: “This is quite a difficult question to answer as the girls will read this and wonder why I left some of them out, so I will answer this on the level the girls are at coming into the squad: Emma Doherty played International at U15 level, coming back from a double break on her leg, Codie Walsh and Lucy Canning were up for assessments, while the three 2005 players Erin Doherty, Shania McGonagle and Erika Gallagher all get selected for trials last year. These three girls were part of the Donegal U15 Gaynor Squad this year and advised and encouraged to try progress further.”

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