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Womens Premiership


08 Dec 2020
© NI Football League Jessica Foy
Glentoran Women captain Jessica Foy insists the squad remain totally focused and ignoring any title talk despite being just one point from being confirmed as champions.
Billy Clarke’s side will be confirmed as title winners if they secure a point or more from Wednesday night’s trip to Crusaders Strikers.
The match at Seaview will be the first ever Danske Bank Women’s Premiership clash to be broadcast by BBC Sport NI, putting even greater scrutiny on the players.
The Glens have lifted the league title seven times - more than any other club - but have not triumphed since 2014, with cross-city rivals Linfield lifting each of the past four seasons.
The Blues are the only side who can mathematically still catch the Glens: if Linfield beat Derry on Wednesday, they will win the league if Glentoran lose to both Crusaders and Sion Swifts.
However, the Glens have won seven of their eight league games to date and captain Foy insists: “Every player understands the importance of the game, but we are ignoring the noise around it.
“Crusaders are consistently one of our toughest opponents - the two clubs have held a long-standing rivalry domestically from the start of women’s football here.
“Nothing in this game will be given to us and if we are to get anything from the game we will have to work hard and earn it. 
“The league was our priority this season and our only objective was to win as many games as possible and put those points on the board to give us the best chance of that title.
“We have been really close on a number of occasions the past couple of years but have consistently fallen just short and usually have stumbled in the closing weeks.”
This has been a challenging year unlike any other, but it has been a triumph for women’s football with Northern Ireland reaching their first ever qualification playoff while the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership will be completed despite multiple hurdles to overcome.
“Every player was delighted when we heard there would even be a season at all this year, because a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to allow it,” continued Foy.
“The season itself has been a really long and challenging one in that respect, because there are so many obstacles in the way for all the clubs.
“This has been such a hugely competitive league and a really difficult one to win - you can see that by so many clubs having international recognition in the past few weeks.
“Women’s football is on the rise at the moment and it is great for the BBC to be streaming this league game and giving us a platform to reflect that.”
Glentoran have been title favourites all season, but there is more strength in depth in the division than ever before. The latest Northern Ireland squad had 15 players from the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership with five different clubs having two or more representatives.
However, Glentoran had six representatives in the squad - more than any other side - and whilst Foy, was not among them, she has been capped over 20 times at international level.
“Joely Andrews was playing for our Under 13s side the last time we won the league, and now she is a first-team squad player and in the international squad,” added Foy.
“There has been such progression in player development in recent years, right up from the grassroots to the senior level.
“It is benefiting all the clubs and the international team too because the proper infrastructure is being put in place to help from the league, the clubs and the organisers to help us grow.
“The league is now much more competitive and interesting than it has been in recent years - it’s not just Glentoran and Crusaders fighting for the title anymore, Linfield have been really strong, Sion Swifts are competing for titles and Cliftonville have great players coming through too.
“You can never predict who will win the league until the final one or two matchdays.”
Glentoran have had difficulties of their own this season, with international midfielders Caragh Hamilton and Emma McMaster both suffering long-term injuries.
It is the club’s strength in depth that has seen them enjoy such strong over the course of the campaign.
“Any success this season will be because of our squad, it is much more than just 11 players,” continued 25-year-old Foy.
“There have been changes to the starting line-up almost every matchday but the quality has never dropped and any of the 20 or 21 players in training is pushing for a starting place and is improving everyone else.
“That competitiveness really drives us on and improves us.
“It’s so unfortunate for Caragh as she was so influential for us this year but she will be there with the squad and will play a big role for the last two games, even if she isn’t on the pitch.
“Emma Higgins was our goalkeeper last year and she just had a baby girl last week, and she has played a huge part in our victories this season from a coaching perspective.
“There is a great family spirit around the club and all of them are playing their part this year.”