TOMORROW evening, Cork City will finally end an almost nine-month wait to return to action in the Women’s National League.
City’s last fixture was a 1-1 draw at home to Wexford Youths back on November 11, but this weekend they make the trip to Tolka Park to take on Shelbourne Ladies.
“I’d say the players have never trained as much for the first game of the season in their lives,” said manager Rónán Collins.
“It will be great to be playing again. Our players have had a pre-pre-season, a pre-season, and a second pre-season so hopefully, after all that, they will be good to go.
“We’ve been getting minutes into player’s legs, we had a good few friendlies against Cork Schoolboys league clubs.
“They aren’t playing at the moment so there were a lot of clubs available to play which was great.
“If that could be the case for every pre-season it would be fantastic because games wise it has been really positive.
“We have had some good performances and we definitely had elements to work on which the girls have addressed well since.
“It has been different rather than hard, but it will be great to be back on the sidelines and for the players to be back on the pitch.”
The squad’s trip to Dublin will take a different form than usual, following the coronavirus outbreak, but Collins is confident they can handle it and start the season on a positive note against a tough opponent.
“The guidelines that are there at the moment is that we can have two seats per player on the bus,” he confirmed.
“So let’s say with a 52 seater bus we can take 26 players and staff and we all have to wear a mask as well.
“I think there will be some people that will be happier to travel in cars with close contacts so we might end up travelling with much more space than that.
“Shels will be tough, they keep the ball really well, they are technically very good, they have loads of quality and young quality as well.
“They are quite explosive so they will pose a really good challenge but we caused them problems before. It would be good to start with a good result, but it is just the beginning of the season so we have to get performances on track and start as we mean to continue.”
The Leesiders will also be boosted by the return to fitness of their talented young striker Lauren Egbuloniu, who hasn’t featured for the club since she injured her knee away to Limerick in April 2019.
“It is over a year since she played so it is great to have Lauren back. She got her first minutes last weekend so it’s brilliant to have her back, she’s a great addition to the squad, it’s nearly like a new signing coming in.
“She has been really good during rehab, you can see she has matured a lot during that time and she showed a lot of hunger to get back.
“Already what we have seen in pre-season is that she has progressed as a player in that period so we are looking forward to seeing what she is going to bring in the season ahead.”