THE women's game continues to grow across the country and while we see the development and progress on the pitch, sometimes we tend to forget about what’s being done behind the scenes.
For anyone involved in any sport, we are familiar with the hard work, commitment and dedication of people who work in the administration side.
Coaching at Wilton United, I get to see the Trojan work our secretary Pat O’Driscoll does. At times, he may not always get the acknowledgement and praise he deserves but when you sit back and look at the overall scheme of the work he does, you soon appreciate that the club could not operate without him.
Every sport or organisation has at least one Pat O’Driscoll in their club and recently I caught up with a woman who can be seen at almost every girls' game in Cork.
Helen Noonan from Douglas is the current Child Welfare Officer of the Cork Women’s and Schoolgirls League and here she tells us about her role and her time involved in the women’s game.
“Over the last 15 years I have been a Committee member, Assistant Secretary and Gaynor Cup co-ordinator with the CWSSL and also co-ordinator with the FAI Cork COE,” said Noonan. Each role had its own challenges and I enjoyed my time in each position.
"I am currently the Child Welfare Officer in the CWSSL and I coordinate our representative squads from U12s to senior. In addition, I am also involved with the FAI Cork Centre of Excellence programme in Mayfield AFC so I’m definitely kept busy,” laughs Noonan.
Noonan first got involved with women’s soccer when she linked up with local club Douglas Hall where her two daughters played. Here she developed a love for the game and has been heavily involved ever since.
"Chelsea was an underage international goalkeeper and played with Douglas Hall so I got involved and enjoyed many years at the club. Chelsea is now the FAI Development Officer in Kerry and is also the Assistant Coach to James Scott with the Irish U17 international squad.
"Remi is a very talented artist and is studying Digital Animation in Clonmel. I have always been a big supporter of both their interests be it soccer, camogie or comic con but yes most of my time is now involved in the administrative side of the game.
“I am happy in my current role as it allows me to be involved with each representative squad both at training and on match days, which I enjoy the most. I love seeing the enjoyment on the players' faces when they are training and playing games.
"I really enjoy going to matches of any age group. It is great to meet so many players, parents, coaches, referees and to see the players grow as a person as well as a player.
“Monday nights our U13 and U14 representative squads train in Lakewood Athletic. Wednesday nights I am in Mayfield with the FAI COE. Thursday nights could be a delegate or committee meeting.
"The weekends are spent travelling around to see various league games, mostly because I just enjoy it but it is also an opportunity to identify potential players for our League Centres.
"We are commencing our U12 Development League Centre shortly which will have about 100 players from all our league clubs on Sunday afternoons and our senior squad usually train on a Sunday evening. In between these there are always things to be done like securing venues for training, recruiting coaches, organising training gear and a lot of phone calls.
“Each member of the CWSSL Committee spend many hours working behind the scenes be it organising club fixtures, responding to a large volume of club emails and queries, registration of players and teams, overseeing the finances of the league, organising training sessions and coaches for our League Centres, promoting girls and women's football in Cork and most importantly ensuring the enjoyment and development of young girls within our league."
All these roles are voluntary and the members of the committee do it in the best interests of the girls and women involved.
“I enjoy most sports and have been involved previously with Douglas Camogie and Douglas Ladies GAA both of which I enjoyed immensely with the highlight being winning the U14 Feile na nGael in 2009 with a fantastic group of players, coaches and parents. Sport is a fantastic way to bring people together and that’s why I enjoy being part of it.”
Noonan has seen many players leave the local leagues to pursue a career in the National League. While it’s sad to see them go, she believes it is a great opportunity.
"Obviously, some players have ambitions to pursue the elite pathway which is now available in many regions throughout the country.
"Women's and girls football has grown hugely over the past number of years with the WU17s National League being a major turning point in Irish football. This being said it is equally as important to provide a pathway for players wishing to pursue recreational football.
“I would love to see more people getting involved with their local clubs and Leagues. We are always looking for people to come on board our committee to help in any capacity and also for coaches for our representative squads. If interested please contact us."