“WE are probably happy enough with the season, within reason.”
That was the view of Cork City Women’s stalwart Chris O’Mahony. The team finished in fifth-place out of eight teams in the 2019 Women’s National League, ending the campaign with seven wins, three draws, 11 losses and 24 points to equal the club record.
Amazingly, they achieved the exact same set of results in the 2018 season yet there has been talk that the team had a disastrous year. O’Mahony was keen to set the record straight.
“Obviously we would have preferred to have finished higher in the league but you have to take a few factors into consideration. There were a few major decisions that went against us, they supposedly even themselves out over the season but I don’t know about that.
“One of the disappointing things for me was we drew 2-2 with Galway at the end of October at home. Then the following weekend we went to Peamount United and there was a seven-player turn over due to various things and we were well beaten.
“If you are going playing against the best teams in this league, you need everyone to be at 100% if you are to have a chance.
“We only had one game afterwards against Wexford in Mayfield, that was a refixed game which wasn’t played originally because the fixture was scheduled for the same time Youths were on Champions League duty.
“Everyone knew they would be playing Champions League so that was never going to go ahead and we ended up having to pay rent for the astro-turf pitch.
“We have girls in college and working in jobs and they are telling their employers they are free this week and then all of a sudden the game is scheduled for when it shouldn’t be and it has to be played on the Jazz weekend.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s not helpful and it’s not fair on the players when they are trying their best to be elite level athletes.”
While the scheduling of games was strange and unaccommodating, City were also left to rue numerous injuries and remarkably poor officiating which denied them the opportunity to challenge closer to the top.
That infamous disallowed goal away to Wexford was a particular low point.
“That was ridiculous,” lamented O’Mahony. “It would have been a good point for us against the reigning champions at the time and the side who have gone on to win the FAI Cup since.
“Then there was the fiasco as well of international players being released for some teams but not our team. We were in the middle of an injury crisis as well at the time so a few things like that went against us.
“Savannah McCarthy was our player of the year in the 2018 season and she missed a huge part through injury. It was a very serious injury and but you are missing a very experienced player and a senior international who has played professionally abroad.
"Saoirse Noonan missed a lot of games as well. Saoirse is talented at GAA and soccer and she is doing her best to play in both of them which is difficult. If Saoirse tells you she’s not going to be available for these weeks that’s the way it is, it’s not like she tells us just five minutes beforehand.
“Obviously there is no problem with that but you are missing the highest goal scorer the club has ever had in its history. Lauren Egbuloniu came up from the U17s and she is an U19 international striker but she also picked up a serious injury and missed most of the season.”
But there were still numerous positives from the season that should provide optimism for 2020. They scored a record number of goals with 39 while they also had young players receive international caps.
“Christina Dring really stepped up to the mark and had a fantastic season,” said the former chairman. “There was definitely huge individual positives like Christina – she also won our player of the year award this year – she did really well and if she continues like that she will definitely get international recognition.
“The World Cup was on during the summer and Éabha O’Mahony ended up playing against the world champions - the most recognisable women’s team in the world – for her senior international debut.
“That was fantastic and that was coming off the back of Zara Foley making her senior international debut as well.
“We have two players there who were actually eligible for our U17 team and they have now been capped at senior international level which really bodes well for the future.
“Maria O’Sullivan our goalkeeper – we lost two senior international goalkeepers at the start of this year – did really well and was capped at U19 level because of her performances.
“So there is definitely a lot of good stories individually but collectively if a few certain things went our way we would have finished higher up the table.” And that will be the aim for next season, to challenge for honours and to try and break into the top four in the table.
But to do so the club will need more help from the association in charge and also a little bit more luck with decisions and injuries.
“Rónán Collins and Paul Farrell have had meetings with the FAI,” confirmed O’Mahony. “They told them about the things that went well and the things they need to improve on.
“Fixtures is a huge one, the standard of refereeing needs to improve and they’ve asked for our opinions but they’re dealing with so much at the moment whether or not this is a priority for them I don’t know.
“For us next year, we just need to kick on as a team. There is a lot of good young players coming through so hopefully, we will be challenging in the top half of the table next season.”