I HAVE interviewed Ciara McNamara in the past and the tone has always been upbeat.
We spoke to preview an upcoming final, to reminisce about Cork City’s famous win in the Women’s FAI Cup final in 2017, or about the honour of playing at Turner’s Cross.
But this time, it’s different.
“It hasn’t been great, to be perfectly honest,” McNamara says.
After nine games this season, City have failed to win — the only side in the Women’s National League to do so — and are rooted to the bottom of the table.
But McNamara can see some positive signs.
“There’s younger girls getting experience and game time that they may not have got in other seasons, but that brings challenges in itself,” she says.
“In those key moments, they may not have the experience to make that split-second decision or they may second-guess themselves and, unfortunately, that has cost us in some games.
“As a senior player, it is a little bit disheartening, but I can see the progression that the girls are making. I think it is only a matter of time before it clicks and we will get three points.
“It’s hard. It’s another week or so without a win, but we will keep going, we will keep pushing,” McNamara says..
We are a young team, but there comes a time when we have to go, ‘Right, we are a young team, but that excuse is not going to fly anymore.’
“The girls have got their game time now, they have played the first round of games, so we really need to push on and everyone in the squad knows that.”
This isn’t the first time the club has experienced a difficult run of results, not even since McNamara joined.
In the 2013/14 season, City failed to register a point and only scored two goals, although there was a slight improvement in the 2014/15 campaign — the defender’s first at the club — as they finished on two points.
“I have been around quite a bit now and I have been through tough seasons,” says the 24-year-old.
“In my first season, it was even tougher than this. I know what it feels like. I have been here before and I know what it takes to get out of this storm, so, hopefully, I can pass that on to the more inexperienced girls and we can move on.
“If you look back at that time, we didn’t really have the calibre of player that we do now, with all due respect to the players that played then.
“Even the league itself wasn’t as competitive then as it is now. It was a lot different and the club has moved on a lot since then.
“We have got to two FAI Cup finals, we finished fourth last season, our highest finish in a long, long time,” McNamara says. “We have set those higher standards for ourselves, but with that comes more pressure.
“We know what we have to do to improve, we have looked at the things we haven’t done well in games, and we are going to work on it to improve on the next round of games.”
The centre-back will tap into her experience to ensure City can salvage something from this season.
The club is on a midseason break, which will be used to reflect, to improve, and, potentially, allow some key players to return from injury.
The Leesiders face a tough task in their first game back, when they travel to Dublin to take on Saoirse Noonan’s Shelbourne. A 10th game without a win is a real possibility, but McNamara and her teammates will fight to get that first victory.
“You have to keep going,” she says.
There is no magic button that you can press that will change everything. You have to keep going.
“That’s football... you have seasons where you reach the heights you did last year and then some seasons you have some more challenges.
“It tests you, as a person and as a player. Do you have that drive to keep pushing, knowing that the results will come if you keep going and keep working?
“The midseason break came at a good time: It gives us time to work on things and, hopefully, get players back fit,” McNamara says.
“Our aim is to get that win. It may not come against Shels, but with fans coming back, egging us on, hopefully, it will come sooner rather than later.”