Here Come the Girls: Looking Ahead to the 2022 Women’s National League Season
In November of last year, we spoke to Alice Linehan, Social Media Coordinator for the Women’s National League, about the increase in popularity of women’s football in Ireland over the last 18 to 24 months.
Alice spoke about the increased buzz and interaction she was seeing on the WNL’s social channels and the upwards trend of interest happening right now for the sport.
“It’s really blown up this year in terms of how many people are realising there’s a women’s league in our country and that there are decent women’s footballers in our country as well," she said.
One of those decent women’s footballers is Sinéad Taylor.
Sinéad has played for some of the top sides in the WNL such as Galway, Peamount United, Shelbourne, Wexford Youths and, most recently, she has signed with Bohemians.
Sinéad signing for Bohemians. Credit: Bohemian FC
Speaking from a player’s perspective, Sinéad echoed Alice’s sentiments, agreeing that there has been a definite uptake in people following women’s football in Ireland.
“Absolutely there’s been an increase, obviously covid impacted attendances but if you look at the cup final, we had a record attendance of 3000 plus which was good,” she said.
Sinéad was a member of the victorious Wexford Youths team that day. Some 3,053 people made the journey to Tallaght to see Wexford knock off league champions Shelbourne.
In the piece late last year, we spoke about a 4000 strong crowd showing out to support the Women’s National Team, in a game boasting a number of established players in the women’s game around the world.
Over 3000 attending the domestic final is perhaps an even more encouraging number. And for Sinéad, she doesn’t see it slowing down.
“In terms of Sport Ireland and the Women’s National League, it’s only going to get better, the coverage is getting better, and the social media side of things is increasing.
“I’ve joined Bohs now and they’re looking to break the attendance record that was made by Cork and Treaty. I think they got 1500 or maybe more,” she said.
This target will be helped by a recent announcement that Bohemians will be playing all their home games for the upcoming season at Dalymount Park.
This is obviously a norm for the men’s team. However, the women’s team had been splitting their time between the Home of Irish Football and the Oscar Traynor facilities in Coolock where they train.
This development means that all WNL teams are using the same playing facility as their male counterparts, where that is applicable.
Dalymount Park, home of Bohemian FC. Credit: Irish Times
The ambition, for Sinéad, doesn’t stop at increased eyes on the game.
“I think going forward, maybe not in my [playing] lifetime, in another few years, you might have a few professional players [in the WNL].”
This would certainly be welcome.
Currently, if a player wants to earn money from their skills, they have to look further afield.
This isn’t necessarily a negative thing.
Ireland has a number of its ladies performing week in and week out at the highest level in the UK, America and across Europe.
This invaluable experience is a key reason why the national team has been able to perform as well as they have in recent times.
Irish captain, Katie McCabe in action for Arsenal. Credit: Independent.
But it cannot be understated what hanging on to our top talent could do for the development of the game domestically.
Ellen Molloy is a rising star in the WNL right now.
Since joining Wexford Youths in 2019, she has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in football with an extremely impressive 2021 campaign that saw her get player of the match in the FAI Women’s Cup Final victory of Shelbourne.
She has been named in the Team of the Season for two years running and, at the age of just 16, made her debut on the senior national team.
Wexford has secured her signature for the 2022 season, but it won’t be long before interest arrives from overseas, particularly if she continues to play at the level she has been so far.
Ellen Molloy representing Ireland. Credit: Irish Mirror
Nevertheless, it is an exciting time to watch women’s football in Ireland, and for Sinéad, the message to the fans is clear, get down to games.
“It’s all about the atmosphere. You’re not going to get the atmosphere through the telly, it’s all about being at the game,” she said.
The Women’s National League 2022 season kicks off on Saturday the 5th of March and you can see Sinéad, and her new teammates take on Shelbourne in Tolka Park.
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