Kilworth women's soccer club takes its historic first step

After 25 years, the north Cork club have entered a team into the women's league
Kilworth women's soccer club takes its historic first step

Kilworth FC ladies team at a recent training session with Manager Tom Downes

TONIGHT, the first senior women’s side in the Kilworth club will play in the league.

After 25 years in existence, the Kilworth club felt the time was right to focus on the women’s game and one of the founding members, Kevin Wheeler, is thrilled.

“This is the first time in the club’s history that we have an adult ladies’ team and we are absolutely delighted to develop the female participation at the club,” said Wheeler.

“Manager Tom Downes has only had the ladies training over the last few weeks, as, again due to Covid, we all have to adhere to the protocols, but they are ramping up nicely and they are all excited in beginning their league campaign tonight, against Ballinhassig.”

The league consists of 10 teams and, as usual, the First Division in the CWSSL will be competitive. However, for Kilworth and their management, not being too familiar with the standard takes the pressure off, but they are aware how tough it can be.

“We are in the First Division and not having been involved or watched much adult ladies’ soccer, it is very difficult to gauge the standards involved,” Wheeler said.

“We might know a lot more after tonight. However, there are no expectations on our part.”

The majority of players are from surrounding areas, such as Araglen, Fermoy, and Glanworth and with a mixture of ages, and Wheeler and all those involved with the club are excited about the season ahead.

“The girls are raring to go. It’s all about learning in the first campaign and getting the club’s ethos and family feel out there for others to, hopefully, come on board,” Wheeler said.

“Very few ladies have any real experience of playing competitive soccer, but they would all have a GAA game background of some description, so, hopefully, they can bring some of those qualities to the field in the soccer environment.

“For many, it will be their very first time playing a competitive game of soccer, so I’m sure they will have plenty of highs and lows along the way and we are under no illusions on the difficult nature of what lies ahead.

“Tonight, they kick off the season against Ballinhassig.

“We expect a tough game, but if we can come out the other side with everyone having enjoyed the experience and having learned what is in store for the coming games, that will be a bonus.

“Hopefully, we can be competitive in the league, but after tonight, we might find out how difficult this is going to be.”

Kilworth Celtic FC was founded in March 1996.

The club has always offered the people of Kilworth and surrounding areas the opportunity to participate in, and enjoy, playing soccer in a welcoming, inclusive environment.

Through the efforts of many committed and talented people, the club continues to deliver on this aim.

“Playing out of Sheila Flynn Park, the club continue to grow in membership, with currently over 300 players at the club,” Wheeler said.

“We, as a club, are committed to increasing female participation at all levels of sport and to advocate for increased media coverage of, and attendance at, women’s games and events.

“The number of players, across all age groups, continues to grow at Kilworth Celtic FC and, at present, the number of registered players/members stands at 320 and growing on an annual basis.

“The club is now active in the Men’s Munster Senior League, as well as across 14 juvenile categories (U6s to U16s).

“There is a thriving academy (boys and girls, U6 to U9), where our young players learn the game of soccer with the support and encouragement of our expanding coaching team.

“We compete in a wide variety of leagues, such as the MSL, Cork Schoolboys’, the West Waterford/East Cork (WWEC) Schoolboy Leagues, and the Cork Women’s and Schoolgirls’ Soccer Leagues (CWSSL).

“Our juvenile and adult teams have won many league and cup titles in recent years. These victories are due in no small part to our committed coaches.

“The club encourages our parents, players, and supporters to become involved in juvenile coaching and facilitates them in this by offering access to FAI-accredited coaching courses.”

Wheeler, the treasurer, is thrilled with the growth in the club and is thankful to all the sponsors.

“Soccer, or football as I prefer to call it, is a huge passion of mine and when the idea came about, back in 1996, we never thought it would be where we are today, in terms of the development we have put in place,” Wheeler said.

The vision for Sheila Flynn Park continues to grow and, hopefully, others can take on the passion when I decide to stand aside.

“Things are looking good in that respect, with plenty of coaches, helpers, and supporters now involved, two of whom are my kids, Jamie and Nadine, who do great work. I’m coaching the underage.

“Once upon a time, we said if we had two pitches and a container to change in, it was progress, but now we are struggling to accommodate all the teams and we could do with some new pitches or an astro-turf facility, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, I suppose.

“Our focus now is on the women’s team and manager, Tom Downes, is the man in the spotlight here and Tom will give it his best shot.

“I think it’s Tom’s first time coaching a women’s team, but he’s well set up for this and he will give it his all.

“I can only say, from my side, it’s been a whirlwind experience and we are all just looking forward to getting back playing.

“We have a wonderful sponsor in Fiona Turley, a local artist who has come on board as the ladies’ sponsor, and outside of Fiona we have so many sponsors for various teams and other things that, without them, we just couldn’t survive, so I thank all our sponsors, no matter how big or small, as a small club, like Kilworth Celtic FC, needs that community spirit and local business support to be able to compete.

“We can’t wait to get started and we know it will be tough, but let’s see what’s involved and go from there,” Wheeler said.

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