Playing your first league match at senior level can be somewhat of a rollercoaster. The expectations beforehand, the stress involved in getting preparations in place, nerves as the big day approaches and finally, relief as you take the field and get underway. Some may have been there and done that, but many are unfamiliar with it all. To play at home, and get a positive result, is the wish for many.
And so, it was for Women’s national league debutants, Limerick. On Sunday 11th March, they stepped out for the beginning of their campaign against Kilkenny. They were now setting themselves up alongside the best teams around. The moment of truth now laid ahead of them. Their opponents may have finished bottom of the table last season but gained a lot of experience from playing regularly at this level.
The Shannon siders are, of course, renowned for their male sides over the years. It was confirmed in January that a women’s side was being put forward to compete in this season’s league. It is the result of many years of work behind the scenes and development at underage levels in the city and county. Having the support of the men’s side is vital to all of this. Being able to share the same facilities, and play at Markets Field, is a huge fillip to them.
Any fears and doubts which may have existed prior to the game, were expelled at the end of ninety minutes that provided them with a winning start. And there was nothing lucky about it. Dominating possession from the very beginning, they forced the visitors to defend en-masse. An early goal from Lauren Keane was all they had to show for it though. As the half came to a close, Kilkenny began to create chances of their own. Time for cool heads. The crucial second came just after the break when Sylvia Gee lashed home from 15 yards. The win was secured when Keane bagged her second and Megan Connolly sealed it with a late fourth.
All in all, a memorable day for the new girls. Obviously it is going to be a long campaign and many challenges have to be faced. Manager Dave Rooney expressed his pride after the game. “We have everything. This isn’t window dressing for the club. We are very, very serious about girls football. I’m delighted to be leading it and delighted to be a part of it. It’s been a proud day for all the squad.” He set out his belief that there is more to come from his side. “Technically there are going to be better teams than us. We know that, but nobody is going to out work us in any match this season.”
Keane expressed a word of warning to the rest of the league. “The goal is to finish as high as we can. We are going to show to the top teams that we are going to put it up to them. We are going to work hard. If we win, we win.”
Watch out ladies. There is a new side in town.