Lisburn Ladies boss Hayden Davis has welcomed the new format of this season’s Danske Bank Women’s Premiership which includes a split between the top and bottom halves of the table.
All sides this season will play their seven league rivals home and away before the league splits into two after 14 rounds of action, with each team than playing the other three sides in their half home and away again to complete the 20 matchdays.
That ensures that newly-promoted sides Lisburn and Mid Ulster Ladies will, if they fail to make the top half after 14 rounds of action, then have hugely important matches for the final six games of the campaign.
Davis welcomed the format by stating: “The split is a perfect idea – it is what all the clubs in the league wanted.
“The top teams want to be playing against sides challenging them in the table with hugely competitive games and it is same for teams at the other end of the standings.
“Every league in every nation has leagues within leagues with a big difference between the top sides and those at the foot of the table, so more competitive and meaningful matches is great.
“This will mean that the second half of the season is going to be really interesting no matter where you are – if you are in the bottom half of the standings, your new goal is to top that league.”
Lisburn picked up their first point of the campaign last week with a draw away at Derry City, following on from four-goal losses to Glentoran and Sion Swifts respectively.
Davis’s side had a late opportunity to seal all three points at the Brandywell, but Jessica Hall’s penalty was saved by Clare Friel with four minutes remaining.
“Whenever you miss that opportunity to come away with three points, the players were a little downbeat after the game and that was understandable,” continued Davis.
“The objective for us was to come away from the game with at least a point and the game itself showed there was little between the two teams, but it does show the fine margins there will be.
“Derry have stabilised as a Premiership club in recent seasons and that is what we are looking to do in the years to come.
“All three of our games have been very different so far – against Glentoran you’re trying to keep pace with the champions and that was hugely enjoyable, Sion was more disappointing as there was one spell in the first half that killed us then Derry was about grinding it out and trying to make those key moments count.
“We do not have the resources that other clubs have but the NIFL status for us is huge.”
The step-up into the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership from the pyramid below is significant, with sides now regularly facing opposition sides packed full of internationals who have more rigorous fitness regimes – with many stars looking ahead to this summer’s European Championships with Northern Ireland.
“The step up into this league really is huge for us as a club and as a team,” added Davis.
“I’m not sure everyone at the club has fully understood the significance of what it means for us but we are getting there – it just takes a little bit of time to realise where we are.
“You are coming up against sides every week who are several levels better than what you have faced before and it takes a little bit of time to adjust to that.
“The commitment to the game is totally different when you are at this level, if you are in the Premiership there is so much more you have to put in to justify that.
“When you are coming up against international players week in week out, that is an incredible experience – of course you have to enjoy it, but you have to realise how significant this is.
“This is true for everyone – the coaching staff, the players, the club, we are all learning.”
It is a steep learning curve for the newly-promoted side, who continue their campaign against title hopefuls Cliftonville on Wednesday before completing the month with fixtures against Crusaders and Linfield.