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CSSL committee member Tommy Molloy with newly appointed chairperson Deirdre Shannon. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Deirdre keen to advance girls’ game as she takes top soccer post

Champion Chatter

INCREASING the number of girls teams in Ennis is high on the agenda of the new chairperson of the Clare schoolboys/girls league (CSSL).

Ennis woman Deirdre Shannon was confirmed to the position at the recent annual general meeting of the CSSL.

Shannon, who succeeds Brendan Wall in the chair, was nominated by Hermitage and seconded by multiple clubs and was unopposed on the night. She is the first woman chairperson in the league’s history.

Shannon took her first steps in coaching with Park United and has overseen underage teams at club and county level over the past 12 years. She is the coordinator of the emerging talent programme (ETP) in Clare.

In her address to delegates, Shannon thanked members of the outgoing committee for their work in putting the running of the underage game in Clare back on stable footing after some turbulent years.

She then outlined her vision for her first year in the chair which coincides with Ireland playing in the 2023 World Cup.

And Shannon is calling on clubs in Ennis to captislise on the national team’s success and provide more teams for girls.

“I think we’ve had a fantastic year, both girls and boys and our numbers are up by around 17%. Girls numbers are up in 2022 by 33%. It is unfortunate that there is still only one girls football club in Ennis, for the size of the town of Ennis and it is something that really needs be developed,” Shannon said,

She continued, “Whether that is through our RDO, Denis Hynes, myself or going to the schools or the clubs. We have Avenue United, Ennis Town, Lifford and Hermitage and we have only one girls club.

“At the moment all we have in the town of Ennis is girls under 10, under 11, under 12, under 13 and under 14 and then there is a drop-off for under 16s. There is no girls team over the age of under 14s in Ennis and that is something I do think can be worked on.”

“The boys set-up is fantastic throughout the county. Every club has two or three teams. It is something that is not there for the girls….I think that it is the year to push and develop girls football.

“This year we are back on track with the CDSL with women’s football in Clare. Presently we have six teams from all parts of Clare. It’s disappointing there is never any mention of them in the media. There was a lot massive games in the women’s league as well and they just need to be noticed and that way we can build the league.”

Shannon also highlighted the success of Clare players, Kate Jones (Bunratty Cratloe) and Aibhlinn Cotter (Moneypoint) at national level as evidence of the depth of talent in Clare.

She said, “When I started with the CSSL 12 years ago with Park United, I started knowing nothing about football, very little, certainly coaching. I met the likes of Sean Cregan and Leonard Meaney.

“I met a lot of people along the way who helped me along. I never thought I’d be an ETP coordinator for the last four years. We have so many talented kids in Clare who maybe aren’t getting the notice they should be getting.

“We received an email from FAI headquarters today that we had two more girls called up for assessments. That’s massive. That’s a lovely call you have to make to the parents of Kate Jones and Aibhlinn Cotter. We want to see more of that because we do know that the talent is there in Clare for boys and girls.”

Speaking afterwards, Shannon told the Clare Champion that new facilities and closer involvement with local schools will be key to unlocking much of the potential in Ennis and around Clare.

She said, “It’s about getting a facility for the league. We have no grounds. We are spending thousands with Clare County Council. Don’t get me wrong. We’re grateful for that.

“They do look after us and they did with the festival of football. But in general, I’d hope we can develop the girls game further in Ennis town because there is no team apart from Hermitage.

“I think we can do it. With the help of Denis Hynes, I think we can go to the schools. We have fantastic facilities up in Cloughleigh to keep the kids off the street. There is a state of the art, brand new surface on the astro up there. All the schools have their own indoor halls. If we can get a school programme going, we can get the kids in and get it going.”

Shannon heads up a new look committee with many of the executive that have been in place for the past two years, stepping down. John O’Malley will serve as vice chairman with Conor Twomey taking up the position of secretary.

Wayne Skerritt (Corofin Harps) is the league’s new treasurer while the meeting heard that clubs will be asked for nominations for the position of fixtures secretary.

Committee members for the coming year are: Catherine Ryan; Emily Bradbury; Cathal Jones; Conor McFadden; Barry Downes; Pa O’Halloran; Tommy Molloy.

Molloy is also the league’s delegate to the schoolboys football association of Ireland (SFAI).

In July, he was appointed to the SFAI executive and is also the SFAI representative on the FAI’s women’s football strategic committee.

In a report read to delegates, outgoing chairman, Brendan Wall praised fellow committee members for their “professionalism” in recent years.

Wall stated, “My apologies for not making this evening’s year’s AGM. I have to attend a funeral in Dublin. My congratulations to club officers, team manager and players for their participation in this season’s competitors. The support of parents is also acknowledged.

“To all the managers and officials involved in the ETP, with particular thanks to Deirdre Shannon and Denis Hynes. I want to say a special thank you to the outgoing committee for their professionalism and commitment. Some of these individuals and myself are not going forward and I wish the new committee well in the coming season”.

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