Womens Premiership


17 Nov 2020
© LinfieldFC.com Ebony Leckey
The headlines this summer were grabbed by two high-profile sisters making the joint switch from one Danske Bank Women’s Premiership title contender to another.
Northern Ireland international forwards Kirsty and Caitlin McGuinness swapped Linfield for Sion Swifts on the eve of the new campaign, but two sisters with huge potential of their own moved the other way in deals which went under the radar.
Ebony Leckey, 19, and her 16-year-old sister Sienna joined the ranks at the league champions and both have quickly found their feet at the club.
Ebony has instantly become a first-team regular for Phil Lewis’s side and was replaced by her younger sister in the closing stages of Sunday’s 1-0 win at Crusaders.
“Sienna is a quality player and has a massive future ahead of her,” Ebony said.
“This is Sienna’s first season in senior football, as she has been playing at Under-17 and Under-19 level before - she made her debut against Cliftonville earlier in the season.
“We both made the decision to move from Sion to Linfield and we knew it would make sense for us to be at training together and when we’re on the pitch at the same time, we know our own games.
“When you have the sister with you it gives you a bit more confidence and support, especially when you’re in your first year at a new club and in a new environment - it helps the settling in process.”
Ebony - along with Cliftonville’s Leah McEvoy - was joint-top scorer in last season’s Academy League for Sion but her summer move coincided with her moving to Queen’s University at the start of the current academic year, although the pandemic has meant that has been more complicated than planned.
“I started university in September, which obviously was an ideal location for training with the team and for home games,” she explained.
“But then with the Covid situation I have had to go back home and do a lot more travelling, which is not ideal but hopefully that settles down soon and I can move back into student accommodation.
“I have to travel an hour-and-a-half each way for training and matches, but it’s something you get used to once you’re in the routine.
“When I was at Sion, most of the away games are in the Belfast area anyway so you are used to that journey!”
The Blues have won the last four league titles although a series of star player exits was always going to make this season tougher, meaning they lost early ground to Glentoran and Sion in the title race.
However, two successive victories this week at Cliftonville and Crusaders has suddenly elevated them to second spot and behind leaders Glentoran - who do have a game in hand - on goal difference only.
“We entered the break off the back of a defeat against Glentoran, so all the players were feeling a bit down,” Leckey continued.
“We knew we would then have a bit of a baptism of fire coming back with quickfire away games against Cliftonville and Crusaders - who are good quality teams and make you work for everything.
“It was important for us to bounce back from a couple of disappointing results and knowing we had slipped down in the table a bit, because at Linfield you need to be competing at the top and those wins have been really important for the standings.
“All the players here believe in each other and we know what we are capable of, and I think that showed in both of those wins.”
The Leckey sisters are two of 12 teenagers to be involved in first-team action for Linfield this season - a statistic that illustrates their superb youth system and development of young stars.
“The youth setup here is so good that every year you have teenagers making the step up into the senior team,” added Ebony.
“Obviously we lost a lot of key first-team players from a year ago and this team is not as experienced as others but we know there is a lot of quality here, but now we need the time to learn together and grow as a team.
“This is a new side from last year and we are still learning about each other every game, and we know that in a short season anything can happen so who knows where we can end up.
“Every single line-up this season has been different because of players having to isolate and having a few injuries, but we believe we will end the season a much stronger team than at the start.”
This season’s shortened Champions League campaign meant Linfield, rather than playing in a group stage, had a one-off tie at full-time Belgian champions Anderlecht this month.
The trip to Brussels was their first competitive game in over a month and despite the eight-goal defeat, Leckey insists the learning experience is one that will help Phil Lewis’s young side.
“They had nine Belgian internationals in their team, but that showed the benchmark,” the forward explained.
“Each and every one of us learnt something from that experience - you never want to lose by that sort of scoreline but that shows you where we want to be further down the line.
“It is always great to go out and compare yourselves against one of the best teams in Europe and a great learning experience.”
The Leckey sisters are both hoping to be involved in Wednesday night’s highly-anticipated clash against their old club at the Melvin Park Arena, which will also of course see the McGuinness sisters take on their former teammates for the first time.
The result could prove decisive for the destination of this year’s Danske Bank Women’s Premiership title but for two families and several of the league’s most promising young stars, this is a match which will carry more significance than most.