Womens Premiership


23 Apr 2021
The true potential of women’s football across Northern Ireland is now being unleashed, with the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership providing the backbone of the international squad to qualify for next summer’s European Championships.
Of the six top-flight clubs, Derry City Ladies remain the underdogs but boss Kevin McLaughlin is hugely optimistic for the future and believes big things lie ahead for the club.
McLaughlin explains that the Candystripes are focusing more attention on their women’s side and the structure is now in place for the team to keep pace with the league’s leading clubs.
McLaughlin explained: “The women’s game in Derry has grown organically until now but the club has recognised this and we are going in the right direction.
“There are a group of coaches who are now working with the team - Kevin McCready is now the Fitness and Conditioning coach, a role he also has with the first-team and goalkeeping coach Gareth Moore is on board now too.
“Josh Boyle and Jarlath Canning have come in to coach the Under-19 and Under-17 sides respectively, so we have a structure in place to build.
“The club provide us with the facilities - the stadium and the transport, for instance - but they recognise now that we need assistance due to the level of competition we are up against.
“Sion Swifts are in our catchment area too but they established themselves before we were at this level, so our challenge is to change that.
“The club have become a lot more helpful recently and they see the potential in the women’s game, in this team and in the league - they are helping to push us on.”
Last season was a tough one for Derry - they were unable to register a point in a shortened season due to their pandemic with organising matches and training sessions often impossible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The areas infection rate and many players and coaching staff needing to cross the border from Donegal added multiple complications.
McLaughlin added: “We made 13 senior signings last year and due to the pandemic situation, it was almost impossible to embed them in as we had hoped.
“A lot of those players were coming in from Donegal and there were border restrictions at that time due to the situation, so it made it even more difficult.
“It is a big ask to get those players adjusted to the standard of the league here, because it is a huge step up from the Championship and the regional leagues.
“A lot of these players are travelling two hours or more for training and matches, so they are here because they want to be here - they are growing and progressing.
“We know we still need to work very hard to continue establishing ourselves at this level and we know we need to keep making quality signings and bringing in the right standard of player.
“This is a building project and we know we are improving as a group.”
Derry may not be competing for the title this year but the commitment of the players and coaching staff cannot be questioned and, furthermore, there are signs of going in the right direction.
McLaughlin continued: “Our job as coaches is to maximise the talents and abilities of our players - there is no doubting the skillset is there but it’s up to us to gel them as a team and getting the most out of everyone collectively.
“The style of play we implement is really important to us - you need to be a well-drilled unit to compete against the teams of this quality who we face every week.
“We want the players to be able to express themselves but to do that we need to have the basics right and that is at the core of what we are doing.
“This is a small league and every week we are the underdogs and coming up against multiple internationals - so for the players that is tough, but we have that mentality to stick together and grow.”