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Womens Premiership

WOMEN'S PREMIERSHIP 2020 SEASON PREVIEW

25 Aug 2020
football

League football returns to Northern Ireland for the first time in almost six months as the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership gets underway on Wednesday.

Last season was a thrilling campaign which saw the title race go to the wire as Linfield Ladies pipped Sion Swifts Ladies on the final day of the season in dramatic circumstances.

It was a fourth successive title for the dominant Blues, but this season promises to be closer than ever with sides across the division strengthening with Sion Swifts Ladies and Glentoran Women among the teams who will be eyeing the title.

This campaign will be a little different than last season as the league is reduced to six teams following Comber Rec’s relegation last time out.

Winky Kerr’s side fought admirably in their debut campaign at the top level and no doubt but will be back at the top level in the near future.

Due to the adverse circumstances, the league will be shortened to just 10 rounds of matches, with each team playing all other sides in the division home and away.

We take a look at each of the six clubs, their changes from last summer and assess their ambitions for the season ahead.

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© NI Football League Vicky Carleton

Linfield Ladies

The Blues have been dominant in recent years but face their biggest test yet with a series of star players leaving the club for pastures new in the past year.

Since the end of last summer, the club’s captain and star player Kirsty McGuinness has departed for title rivals Sion Swifts, who have also swooped to sign her sister Caitlin.

Kirsty was the star player for the Blues as they pipped Sion to the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership title last year, netting a remarkable 32 goals in her 21 matches. 

Striker Caitlin was also prolific in her debut campaign at this level, finishing the campaign with 19 goals to her name, including scoring seven goals in one game against Comber Rec. 

Chloe McCarron is also set to depart Windsor Park as she is the latest player to move to England with the league’s top talent continuing to be recognised by those abroad.

The Blues have replenished the squad with the signing of Vicky Carleton from rivals Glentoran while Ebony Leckey has joined from Sion Swifts.

Phil Lewis’s side have also been strengthened by the return of Abbie Magee and Kelsie Burrows following spells in England while goalkeeper Nicole Adams is also back.

As ever, Linfield will rely on their superb youth academy to continue to produce the next stars of the game but they will face their biggest task yet in retaining their league title.

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© NI Football League Leonita McVarnock

Sion Swifts Ladies

The arrival of the McGuinness sisters arguably makes Tony McGinley’s side favourites for the league title, but there have been plenty of other changes at the Strabane-based club in recent months.

Such is the turnover of players at Sion, it is virtually a new team from the one that came within one match of their first ever league title last time out.

Tasmin McCarter is the new Sion captain following the retirement of Kendra McMullan, who had to call time on her playing career due to injury.

Northern Ireland youth international Caoimhe Callaghan has also been added to the ranks from Cliftonville while Ellie Duffy has returned from Derry City.

Ireland youth international Erin Fildara has also signed along with Clare Rooney, Kerry Taggart, Lenoita McVarnock, Belle Shannon, Molly Peters and Kaneshia McKinney.

Jamaican international stars Nicole McClure and Dee-Kay Henry lead the departures, along with the exit of McMullan.

American colleges player Kristin Desmond and Haiti international Samantha Brand have also left, along with Zara O'Hagan, Catherine Hyndman, Claragh Conor, Roma McLaughlin, Zoe McGlynn, Chloe McGlade, Michelle McDaid, Ebony Lecky, Lauren Brennan and Niamh Mailey.

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© NI Football League Jessica Foy

Glentoran Women

The Glens, managed by Billy Clarke, have had less of a mass overhaul compared to Sion but have added several quality additions to compensate for high-profile exits.

Northern Ireland international Demi Vance has joined Rangers while American Jessie Davis has joined Danish side FC Nordsjælland and Malin Forssner has moved to Gamla Upsala SK in Sweden.

Elsewhere, Vicky Carleton and Yasmin White have joined Linfield and Cliftonville respectively.

Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Jaqueline Burns has joined the club from American side Carson–Newman Eagles   while Caragh Hamilton has returned to the club and Shannon Dunne comes in from Derry City.

Shona Davis, Sarah Connolly, Hannah Docherty, Annie Timoney and Khloe Cooper are the other arrivals at The Oval.

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© NI Football League Marissa Callaghan

Cliftonville Ladies

The Reds secured a comfortable mid-table finish last season but would likely have been frustrated by not reaching their full potential.

Goalkeeper Caoimhe Callaghan has joined Sion while Northern Ireland international Billie Simpson - whose wondergoal in 201 will never be forgotten - has joined Scottish side Forfar Farmington.

The Reds have moved for local-based players Yasmin White (Glentoran), Clare Carson (Crusaders) and Michelle McDaid (Sion).

Seamus McCorry’s young side will be hopeful of progressing as a team this campaign.

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© NI Football League Kirsty Cameron

Crusaders Strikers

Spike Hill’s Crues will be another side hopeful of pushing on this season - the squad has been rejuvenated with several new additions this campaign while Glenavon goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey remains on the coaching staff alongside Stevie Bainbridge and Ross Stewart.

Northern Ireland Under-19 international Kirsty Cameron - a full-back who can play in midfield - has joined from Linfield while Hollie Johnston arrives from Carnmoney after being prolific in last season’s Championship.

Former top scorer Emily Wilson has returned to Seaview after a year away while Morganne Beggs is also back after an ACL injury with Under-17 internationals Darcy Boyle and Abby Redmond promoted to the first-team squad.

Amy McGivern has finished her college experience in America and will be a key player this campaign while ever-green captain Julie Nelson will again be a star in the division.

Wing back Sasha Clare has moved to a scholarship in the US while Clare Carson has moved across North Belfast to Crues.

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© NI Football League Amy Boyd

Derry City Women

The Foylesiders retained their top-flight status last year and will be aiming to repeat the feat this campaign with virtually a new squad in place.

Goalkeeper Clare Friel has joined from Fanad and is likely to be a star player this campaign while defender Leah McGonagle and midfielder Coral Lapsley are other stars for Kevin McLaughlin’s team.

There are a host of other new arrivals include Derry-native Kathryn Canavan who has joined from Leyton Orient, while other defenders Danille Doherty and Tessie Coyle have both signed from Illies FC.

Danielle McLaughlin, Eilish Havlin, Kate McClenaghan and Megan Havlin have all signed from Greencastle, while Nicole Gordon has also returned to the club.

A host of players have joined from Culdaff including Mary Jane Doherty, Naoimh Callaghan and Tara O’Connor, with Amy Boyd and Natalie McFadden joining from Bonagee United.

Star players Shannon Dunne and Ellie Duffy have joined Glentoran and Sion respectively.