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Womens Premiership


22 Jun 2021
Having secured an early-season victory at home to Sion Swifts Ladies and markedly improving their results this campaign, Derry City Women are clearly going in the right direction on the pitch.
For so long the underdogs and outsiders in the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership, the Candystripes are now a match for any side in the division.
It is now just on the pitch that the club are impressing, but away from their starting line-up there is plenty of optimism for long-term growth and sustainability.
Defender Kathryn Canavan joined the club last year and knows all about the importance of youth-team football and development.
The ball-playing centre-back represented Northern Ireland at Under-17, Under-18 and Under-19 level when she was a youngster at Institute and returned home last year following a spell at Leyton Orient.
Canavan explained: “The Under-19s have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years and they are producing players for the first team now.
“Grace Donaghey came into the side and she stepped up to score a long-range free-kick away to Crusaders, which was a fantastic moment.
“Our Under-19s beat Crusaders last week and they now have a team that can match those top academy sides across the country.
“It’s important for them to start getting that winning feeling and for them to see that pathway into the first team.
“Throughout the club the situation has changed, there are now specialist coaches on board to help the management team and we now have a strength and conditioning programme.”
Canavan keeps herself busy; playing GAA at county level for Derry and for her club side Steelstown, alongside matches and training for the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership side - meaning she is playing spot six days a week.
She arrived to the club last year ahead of a shortened campaign in which Derry were hit harder than most due to Covid and cross-border travel restrictions.
That led to an absence of goals and points for Derry, but this season is a different story.
“Covid really hit us hard last season because unlike most other teams in the league, we were a team of new players who had no pre-season or proper preparation to familiarise ourselves with each other,” added Canavan.
“Then we were in an area near the border with travel restrictions and a higher rate than elsewhere, so it made it tough.
“This year has allowed us to be more prepared - we are now able to focus on building patterns of play and that had not been happening before.
“In seasons before opposition teams did not really give us that respect - they swarmed us and thought we couldn’t play through them and find a way out of that - now we can.
“Now teams are having to change their approach when they are playing us and they have admitted that after games and have been full of praise for what we’re doing.”
Derry were frustrated last week due to circumstances beyond their control forcing the postponement of their trip to rivals Sion Swifts.
Unlike recent years, Canavan revealed she and her teammates are now going into every game with the hope and expectation of picking up points.
She added: “Last week was really frustrating because we had done all our preparation for the game and we were ready to go with our food and kit all packed up.
“We beat them earlier in the season and that really spurred the girls on to be able to do it again, especially with a healthy rivalry between the players.
“We are at a point now when we are looking forward to every game and are confident in what we can do.
“If you look at how close we have been to other big results - taking the lead at Linfield in the second half and only conceding in the fifth minute of stoppage time against Crusaders.
“We are closer to a regular run of good results.”
Derry play host to Linfield Ladies at the Brandywell on Wednesday evening.