Cork City will need youngsters to step up as key players depart

Star striker Saoirse Noonan is moving to Shels to further her international career
Cork City will need youngsters to step up as key players depart

Cork City's Saoirse Noonan gets a pass away despite the attempted block by Shelbourne's captain Pearl Slattery and Alex Kavanagh. Picture: Moya Nolan

CORK City women’s manager, Rónán Collins, has said it is a “huge shock” that star striker, Saoirse Noonan, has decided to leave the club, with Women’s National League rivals, Shelbourne, her likely destination.

Noonan informed her team-mates and the coaching staff at pre-season training on Monday night, believing the move will provide her with a better chance of representing the Republic of Ireland at senior level.

The forward helped the Leesiders finish fourth last season — their highest finish since the club’s maiden season — while she also played a significant role in their FAI Cup triumph in 2017 and in their reaching the final in 2020, when they were defeated by Peamount United.

The 21-year-old is City women’s all-time top scorer and is just one shy of her 50th goal for the club and is nearing her 100th appearance.

“We are very disappointed, but Saoirse has been excellent for us, so we would like to wish her the best of luck to where she moves on to next and we really hope it works out well for her,” Collins told the Echo.

“To be honest, it came as a huge shock. She was very happy, she really enjoyed last season, so it came as a huge shock, but players have to make their decision, so we would like to wish her the best of luck with what’s next for her.”

The news is a huge blow to the club, as goalkeeper and captain, Maria O’Sullivan, moved to the US on a soccer scholarship.

Éabha O’Mahony is set to make a similar switch in the summer, while young striker Lauren Egbuloniu is also close to agreeing to a transfer across the Atlantic.

 Cork City's Eabha O'Mahony battles with Paemount's Megan Smyth-Lynch. Picture: Moya Nolan
Cork City's Eabha O'Mahony battles with Paemount's Megan Smyth-Lynch. Picture: Moya Nolan

Eadaoin Lyons and Jesse Mendez also departed during the off-season, but Danielle Burke, Shaunagh McCarthy, and Éabha O’Mahony became the first players to sign again, on Tuesday, the latter to remain until at least July.

Numerous other players are set to commit in the coming weeks, although some important ones are considering their options.

“One thing we are very lucky with is the quality of the young players we have coming up,” added Collins.

“There has been a lot of players that have moved on to bigger places in the past. 

That’s what we are trying to do also, move girls on so they can develop further, while we have continued to progress, as well, and that’s what we will continue to do.

“The girls had a really good season last year — they really enjoyed it — so it’s great to see them re-sign.

“There’s more re-signed, which will be announced over the next week or two, so it’s great to get them all back on board and to get training again,” Collins said.

City have returned to pre-season and will play three friendlies from February 21, against other Women’s National League sides — as allowed by government guidelines — ahead of the season kicking off on Saturday, March 27.

After a trip to Galway on the opening weekend, Cork will host Shelbourne, and most likely their former striker, on April 3, which will be their first home game at Turner’s Cross.

SHED END

“Bringing the women’s team to Turner’s Cross is fantastic,” said Collins.

“The club has been working very hard on it; it’s something the girls wanted and the Munster Football Association has been brilliant with it as well.

“We always talk about providing the best environment for girls in the Munster area and to be able to get the chance to play in the main football stadium in the area is terrific.

“One of the girls commented to me that they were at the President’s Cup final, between City and Dundalk, a while ago,” Collins said.

“The Shed End... The atmosphere was brilliant, and she said, ‘I’d love to score a goal into that end’, and now she’s going to get the opportunity, so we’re delighted and looking forward to it.

“The Galway game is when we’re all looking forward to getting back and it’s an important game, because we have been close to each other the last few seasons; they’re always six-pointers.

“Shels will be the first game in Turner’s Cross, so we are really looking forward to both those games.”

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