CORK CITY U17 women’s team started their new league season last weekend with a home game against Greystones.
They won easily beating Greystones 4-0 with a very impressive team performance that sets them up nicely for the new year.
But for three of their key players, Lauren Walsh, Aoibhe Noonan and Jesse Mendez it’s a very exciting time.
Having come through a very long pre-season campaign under manager Sarah Healy, the talented trio can’t wait for the games to come thick and fast and to see if they can finish higher in the league than they did last season.
“Last season playing National league for the first time was a great experience,” said Walsh.
“It was a good year overall but we should have finished higher in the competition.
“This year I hope we can get a lot better results and I think we are more than capable of doing so.”
Making the step up from her club Wilton to National league level was a huge step up for the 17-year-old Christ the King student, but one in which she adapted excellently to.
“Going from Wilton to National league was a bit of a step up definitely.
“There was a lot more intensity to training and games and the game was played at a higher tempo.
“For me, the main differences were the commitment and the more competitive games on a regular basis.
“This year we have a mixture of youth and a little experience with seven of last year’s squad playing again this year.
“I think of us seven we need to set the standard really. I expect us to do well this year with Bohs and UCD expected to be our main competitors.
“At the moment we train four nights in a row which is quite difficult on the legs, to be honest.
“We don’t have a lot of recovery time in between training which can be tiring at times but hopefully, all our hard work will be paid off by the end of the season.”
For the centre half, it’s all about gaining experience at this level and she hopes with having a year played at National league level that it will help her as she eventually breaks through to the senior grade.
“I would like a stint with Wilton seniors before I break into Cork City seniors. I think the experience there would do me good.
“I play centre back and with not a lot of competition in that position I would hope to get a lot of game time and therefore gain as much experience as I can.”
For 16-year-old transition year student Aoibhe Noonan, she is looking forward to her first year playing at this level where she hopes to become a better and more experienced player.
“This is my first year playing National league and I am really looking forward to the season ahead,” said Noonan.
“Playing at this level is something I wanted to do for a while now.
“Having watched my sister Saoirse play with City, and seeing the professional side that comes with playing at that level, I really wanted to give it a go.
“Making the step up from playing with Douglas Hall to Cork City was massive.
“Firstly, training sessions were so much more structured. We now train to learn the game as opposed to having a kick around.
“Playing at this level makes you a better player because you have to work harder as you are now competing for a place as opposed to being guaranteed your starting position while at my previous club.
“Training four or five times a week can be tough but it’s certainly made easier because I enjoy it so much.”
The Christ the King student knows she has a tough job to follow in the footsteps of her older sister Saoirse who stars for the senior side, however, Aoibhe certainly hopes she can make her own mark as a winger for this young City squad.
“It’s not always easy to follow in the footsteps of an older sister who has achieved so much but I have learned so much from her along the way and I hope I can bring that into this squad.
“We have a young team but I think we’re really gelling together especially in the past few weeks.
“Playing with and against players have improved me as a player and now my aim for the season would be to get as much game time as possible and for the team to finish in the top tier of the league.”
Jesse Mendez enters her second year of playing National league and she hopes the experience she gained last season can help her and her team mates compete at the top and help her progress to the senior squad in the not too distant future.
“After playing a year of National league I am a lot wiser on how the game is played at this level,” said Mendez.
“Although last year was a fantastic experience, there were a lot of ups and downs. It was hard to take some losses that I felt we should have won but it was all a huge learning curve for me.
“Going into this year I feel so much more confident.
“I would no longer fear the so called bigger teams. I believe we have a great squad who are capable of beating any one on the day.
“We proved that in a pre-season friendly last week beating Peamount 3-1 and also in our game against Greystones last weekend.
“Beating Peamount has given the whole squad confidence, however, we know we can’t be complacent and we still need to work really hard because there were a lot of games last year when we were the better side but still didn’t come away with a win, which was disappointing.
“This year is a lot more exciting as I am in transition year which takes the pressure off school work. Last year I was doing my junior cert and it was a lot of commitment training five nights a week while trying to fit in school work as well as study.
“I love the training sessions where I feel we learn something new each week.
“I would be hoping that we can take everything we have learned during training into the games and if so, I expect us to do really well.
“I love playing the midfield role and like all sports everyone wants to play midfield so there is plenty of competition, however, I feel that just makes me work harder.
“I want to play every game like all the other girls so this motivates me to be the best I can in training.
“My aims for the season would be to get as much game time as possible with the U17s with the hope of been called up to train with the senior squad.”