Irish Women’s Football Highlights 2015.
Ireland’s underage teams achieved great success with the U-17 and U-19 teams qualifying for both UEFA Elite rounds.
The U-19s will face Germany, Azerbaijan and Poland with the tournament in Ireland from April 5 to 10 and the U-17s will face Czech Republic, Hungary and hosts France from March 19 to 24.
Ireland Women’s team achieved an excellent 2-1 victory away to Portugal in October in their EURO 2017 qualifier. In March, Ireland played in the Istria Cup beating Costa Rica 2-1, drawing with Hungary while going down 2-0 to both Austria and Slovakia. In this competition four new caps were awarded and 19 of the 21 players played with the two being Lauren Dwyer from the U-19s and Megan Connolly. Megan playing for Florida State University was named a First-Team All-American for 2015 by the National Soccer Coaches Association in December, an outstanding achievement and also as a freshman.
Spain won 1-0 against Ireland in a friendly in Asturias at the training base of Real Sporting de Gijón. In May, Ireland played the USA in San Jose with the US winning 3-0 with the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year and two time Olympic winner Abby Wambach scoring two and USA going on to win the FIFA World Cup in the following month. Ireland responded well dominating and defeating Haiti 1-0 in Florida four days later, Ruesha Littlejohn scoring.
The World Cup in Canada was a very enjoyable watch in June, a competitive and entertaining tournament and the highest level of women’s football. England progressing to the semi-final attracted all the media’s attention. England and Germany reaching the semi-finals with Japan and the USA made for positive news for all of Europe with two UEFA teams making half of the final four teams.
Ireland player Niamh Fahey won the 2015 FA Women’s Super League and the 2015 SSE Women’s FA Cup with Chelsea, and her fifth FA Cup win, at Wembley with 30,000 people there to see it. Niamh and Chelsea also reached the last 16 of UEFA’s 2015 Women’s Champions League. An incredibly successful year and a match for any other Irish athlete’s achievement this year. Both Niamh and Emma Byrne of Arsenal Ladies will no doubt have benefited from the excitement and competing among the English ladies and league post World Cup. Fiona O’Sullivan also reached the FA Cup Final coming on in the 82nd minute for runers up Notts County.
In September Ireland were defeated by Finland in Tallaght in the UEFA Group 2 Qualifying game. Louise Quinn and Aine O’Gorman scored in October’s game against Portugal earning a big win for the team. Spain impressed very much in Tallaght in November winning 3-0 in the UEFA Qualifier with an excellent all round performance from start to finish.
Setanta Sports having showed the two home fixtures versus Finland and Spain is an all round positive development and brings the Women’s game onto a par with all other footballing TV options. The shows have come across very well and it is truly excellent that the game and squad are getting this exposure.
Ireland will face World Champions USA on January 23 in San Diego in a quick return game that can only benefit the Ireland team. USA will be without Wambach who is retiring after yesterday evening’s friendly versus China in New Orleans.
Former Women’s football player Katie Taylor achieved gold at the Baku games in June. Former player Mary Waldron also made history qualifying this month for the Women’s Cricket World Cup in India for Ireland. Two excellent achievements and a big lift for Irish sports. The World Student games also took place in Korea this July with Women’s team 13th. It was excellent news for Denise O’Sullivan who was awarded Glasgow City’s Coaches Player of the Year Award, Player’s Player of the Year Award and Fans Player of the Year Award. Stacie Donnelly was awarded Manager’s Player of the Year Award at Watford Ladies F.C. and Grace Moloney has secured a professional deal with Reading Women F.C.
The Women’s FAI Continental Tyres Senior Cup was won on penalties by Wexford Youths over Shelbourne in another exciting game in the Aviva Stadium in November. Willie Doyle, a previous team mate of mine at UCD and now Wexford’s coach is making great progress with his team and they are proving to be very hard to beat and impressed in their league win over UCD Waves in Wayside Celtic I was at in September. It was also exciting to see my sister Deirdre, on Cup Final duty for her second year as fourth official. The women’s game and certainly the cup final deserves the best stage available and got that in the impressive Aviva stadium.
A further positive development was the amalgamation of Raheny United with Shelbourne F.C. It is a positive signal and Shelbourne Ladies are now the biggest girls’ football club in the country with over 150 girls playing and training every week. Shelbourne now are leading the way with full schoolboy and schoolgirl sections culminating with senior women and men teams.
This winter I have enrolled on six FAI Coach Education Courses, Kick Start 1 and 2, a Strength and Conditioning workshop, 4×4 workshop, 7×7 workshop and the Youth Certificate. All have been very enjoyable, full of information and given by very good tutors Ian Hill, Jamie Wilson, Paul Whelan, Harry McCue, Johnny Morris Burke and Nigel Keady. Interestingly in all of courses there was only one woman who attended one workshop which was the Strength and Conditioning course.
It was also great to get a month of training with UCD’s Leinster Senior League squad in September with Diarmuid McNally and Tony Sheridan with the team doing well in the top division. At the end of the summer I spoke with two clubs about Performance Analysis Positions, one at Wolverhampton Wanderers in conjunction with a Masters course at Worcester University and the second was with Birmingham City F.C although both didn’t work out it is an interesting area and one that is growing for football clubs.
Personally I am continuing to work with people in Madrid online teaching while considering more teaching in Dublin in the new year along with possible football related language work with Spanish players in the future. I have been able to use DCU and UCD during this year through both’s alumni associations with alumni access which has been invaluable.