Raheny United Football Club has seen a fair amount of changes in management personal in the past three years in which it has competed in the Women’s National League.
Due to various work obligations, four different managers have taken charge of “The Pandas” since the inaugural year of the league in 2011. Players have come and gone in that time also, but one element about the Dublin based club that has remained is success and a winning mentality.
On the 24th of August Raheny United will start the defence of their league title against Castlebar Celtic. But before “The Pandas” can go about the league and attempt to win the WNL for a third year in a row, there is the small matter of The Champions League. For the second successive season Raheny United will be competing in the preliminary rounds of the Uefa Women’s Champions League.
Manager Casey Mc Quillan will take full control of management duties for the season ahead as the Dublin native worked as a coach with Terry Eviston last season only to take over the managerial post mid-season. Casey who is a Company Quartermaster Sergeant in the Irish Army has worked within Irish grassroots football prior to his time with Raheny. Casey has coached in the Metropolitan Girls League and was instrumental in getting U 19’s hero and rising star of the women’s game Keeva Keenan to sign for Raheny United for the coming season.
Working indeed with all the girls that done themselves and the country so proud in the Under 19’s European Championship and of course all of Raheny’s superstars with a few new names added to the mix, the past week saw Casey putting the entire squad through their paces in preparation for The Champions League games in Romania over the coming week.
“There is a great attitude up here, as we are getting closer to the competition. “ Reflecting on a two day training camp consisting of seven hours each day in the Oscar Training Centre in Coolock, the words “attitude” and “focused” are used quite a bit. “We have being doing sharpness on our thinking, as well as on our play.” We are working on our attitude on the pitch, we won’t give anyone any easy game and we want to press them high up the pitch”.
Rahney go into the games in Romania third seed behind local side CFF Olimpia Cluj whom they play on Saturday 9th of August, they play against Bulgarian outfit FC NSA Sofia on Monday 11th of August (again seeded below Sofia) but they are seeded above their final opponents Hibernians FC of Malta, whom they play on the 14th of August.
With so many strong characters at the club, it’s the midfield powerhouse and club stalwart Rebecca Creagh that takes a few moments out of training to discuss the season ahead and The Champions League.
“The two day training camp have seen us put through our paces, working on our tactics & shape and how we are going to approach the games”. “We have some video clips of the opposition and we have being looking that over “.
The ever reliable Creagh has lead Raheny United Women to their two titles as well as some cup triumphs, the most recent of course when they won the FAI Women’s Cup in the Aviva Stadium last November. Creagh also bagged herself a Champions League goal last time out, something no doubt she would relish again.
“Last season I feel we didn’t do ourselves justice “. This feeling is echoed by all at the club, something they will be aiming to fix this time around. The winner of each group qualifies to the next stage of The Champions League and the two best runners up over the eight groups join them. “We have looked at the opposition, worked on our own game and we will come out all guns blazing and do our best “.
Casey also reflects on the opposition and he knows his side stand a good chance in Romania this coming week. “We are third seeded, but as the U19’s showed this summer, seeding is irrelevant if you are on top of your game”. “Football on its day is funny and everything can go out the window”. “We have being working on our game and we’ll rattle the opposition”.
From spending time with the squad, the morale is great and the women of Raheny United are a squad gleaming with confidence and character ahead of their exciting new campaign.
The players are sharp & focused on the games ahead, the management are well prepared and have the players in check, but club man Paddy Moore points to the strong friendships at the club and how the girls socialise together outside of football and he believes this has being one of the reasons for the clubs remarkable success over the past few campaigns. He also believes it’s this kind of spirit that will do the girls well in Romania and do themselves and the league proud.
PHOTOS: Take a look at Raheny United in training ahead of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.