MARIA O’SULLIVAN’S departure from the club during the off-season meant the Cork City Women’s management not only had a huge void to fill in goal, but they also had to appoint a new captain.
After consideration and almost a year to the day since she signed for the club, Becky Cassin was given the armband for the 2021 Women’s National League campaign.
“I’m delighted, it really is a big honour,” says Cassin. “The group of girls that we have… I couldn’t be more proud to be their captain.
“The lads told me at the start of January. We had a Zoom call — just a regular player meeting with the staff — and they asked me if I would be the captain.
“I didn’t hesitate, I said ‘yes’ straight away,” Cassin says. “I always knew, the last few years, that I wanted to come down and play for City — it was just a matter of time — so, now, to be getting the chance to captain the club is huge.”
Cassin was a key player last term, as City secured their highest league finish since the 2011-12 season, while they also reached the FAI Cup final, but were beaten heavily by Peamount United.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 provided the former Wexford Youths playmaker with the opportunity to play more minutes. And she made the most of it.
“It’s a huge testament to the girls and the management: They played a huge part in making me feel welcome and helping me settle in,” Cassin says.
“For me, it was an easy transition, moving down and to get settled in. Last season was good; we can definitely take more positives than negatives from it.
“Up until the cup final, we showed some really good glimpses of what we can do. It was a really good season for us all to fall back in love with the game again.
“The cup final was tough — that was a steep learning curve — but we know now exactly what level we need to be at. We had really good experiences throughout, with lots to learn from,” Cassin says.
“Personally, I loved it. I really enjoyed it. Anytime I’m asked about it, all I can say is I just loved my football, being on the pitch, playing the football that I know I can play, and being given the opportunity to be in midfield again was really nice.”
She may be only 24, but Cassin is now preparing for her eighth Women’s National League season, while her eighth pre-season is already underway.
City’s aim is to improve on last year, but they recently suffered a huge blow, with Saoirse Noonan following O’Sullivan out the exit door, although she will remain in the WNL, with rivals, Shelbourne.
While her former teammate Sarah McKevitt has recently joined the ranks, Cassin has also backed the club’s talented youngsters to step up.
“It’s a season to build on,” Cassin says.
It’s an opportunity, now, going into this year, for the younger girls to step up into more leadership roles.
“They’ve been in with us for a year, so they know what it takes at this level, so I’m really excited to see how they come along. In my opinion, we have some of the best young players in the country.
“We wish Saoirse the best of luck; we all appreciate everything she has done for the club over the last few years: She has been a huge part of City’s journey.
“But, at the same time, we are focusing on ourselves,” Cassin says. “We can’t dwell on her being gone now; it happens, that’s football, players move on, but we know we have players that are well able to step up and take on the role that Saoirse had.”
City’s first home game of the new season will be against Shels, Noonan’s new team. It will also be the first time Cassin leads the side out in Cork, and she will do so at Turner’s Cross.
“I’m buzzing for it,” Cassin says. “I’ve been to games at Turner’s Cross when the Shed is packed and it’s an unbelievable atmosphere.
“It will be a while before we get that, but the idea of walking out there as captain is just a bonus; to be walking out there at all is massive.
“It’s going to be something this year, that it’s our home and nobody is going to come down and have it easy there.
“We are all really excited for it; it’s something to really look forward to.”