A NEW year brings a new challenge and Cobh Ramblers U17 women’s boss Aoife O’Brien hopes early preparation and experience gained from last season, will give her a platform to do well in this campaign.
Having entered the Women’s National League for the first time last season, the Cobh 17s experienced a difficult season, but one which O’Brien believes was a massive learning curve for everyone involved.
“Last season was a massive learning curve,” said O’Brien. "It was my first season managing at National League level and it was a tough but enjoyable experience. Our goal last season was to field a team each week and go out and compete in all our games. I feel like we gave a great account of ourselves making each game as competitive as we possibly could.
"Obviously we had some very tough days but we tried our best to look forward and focus on developing the girls for the future.
“The toughest challenge was definitely the organisational side of the team. I have managed teams before so understood the general day-to-day stuff but when taking on a National League team a lot more time and effort are needed.
"Staying on top of organising your buses, food for the girls, organising sports recovery, physio, pitches and finally at the start ensuring we signed 20 players to our team which was a difficult feat.
“The difference from the start of the season to the end to me was incredible with how much the girls had progressed.
“I learned a lot personally, it was a massive step up in level and experience. We brought in girls that were among the best in their local league but when they entered the national league the quality was so much higher. A big part for me also was the fitness side of the game. It was the biggest step up I learned this year to focus more on the fitness side of the game to have the girls up to the level."
They took a squad of 17 players at the start of the season, adding three more in the summer.
"At the start of the season, we only had one player with previous National League experience so we had 19 National League debuts this year which is incredible to think about. We had an incredibly young squad with 75% being 14 and 15 years old.
“My expectations for this season is building on last year and we have created an excellent core in our team with some of our girls who have progressed massively over the year so I'm excited to see what will hold this year. We also have signed new players from the Cork league that will add to the girls we already have. I suppose this year we are looking to compete in every game again and looking to take away a couple more wins."
They have a management team of four and they're all motivated to do well this season.
“We began trials this year in December. I had already brought back our girls from last year and they started a gym programme in November. This year I really want to push forward by being more prepared for the season ahead.
"The trials went really well, I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout as it was difficult last year to convince teams to let players come play with us. The standard at the trials was just incredible and it madethe coaching staff's jobs really difficult.
"I hope to keep all of the players that are still of age from last year. We developed massively over the season and hope to progress on even further this year. We have some girls that will be moving up to 19s and a couple that can't commit this year due to school so we are looking to bring in about half our squad with new players.
"I'm excited for this as the new girls will bring with them a new level of determination that will boost the team."