Current Continental Tyres Women’s National League Champions Shelbourne Ladies look to be back on the winning track after a difficult start to the 2017 campaign.
Shels claimed an impressive 5-1 victory over Galway WFC last time out, their first win of the season after five games which currently sees them sit 5th in the table.
The reigning Champions saw a huge overhaul in personnel during the off-season as WNL Player of the Year Noelle Murray moved to Glasgow City WFC, Gloria Douglas returned to America and the experienced Rebecca Creagh headed for Australia.
Coach Gordon Ewing admitted it has been a difficult start to the season but believes the side are now on the right track after the Galway win.
Ewing said: “We weren’t expecting to win by that scoreline, Galway have always been a difficult side to play against but it was an excellent display and definitely one to raise confidence.
“We haven’t had the best start to the season. The average age of the side has gone down, even down to 18-years old in some matches. We lost a lot of experience and we’ve had a few injuries as well so there are a few factors.
“We haven’t played badly, we just haven’t got the results. Also, being Champions, other teams want to win against you and gives them extra motivation. But, the Galway win was a definite step in the right direction.”
Having lost a number of players during the off-season, Shels went out and made some impressive signings. Roma McLaughlin and Tiegan Ruddy both signed from Peamount United, and Niamh Prior signed from UCD Waves, all stars in the Republic of Ireland under-age set-up.
McLaughlin, who has already won caps for the senior international side, scored two goals against Galway and Ewing praised the midfielder, and admits he is excited by the prospect of Ruddy.
He added: “When Roma signed, people thought she would replace Noelle but we never did. She has incredible energy and she gets about the pitch brilliantly.
“She took a couple of games to settle in and then had an injury but she scores goals and she took her goals brilliantly last week. She was outstanding and we’re delighted to have her on board.
“Tiegan was at the European Championships recently which is great for her. To be honest, she’s done better than we thought and hopefully she can get a good run of games under her belt now.”
The Champions travel to Cork City WFC this weekend who are four points ahead of Shels in the table and they recorded a fantastic 4-1 win over then-league leaders Wexford Youths last week.
Republic of Ireland striker Clare Shine notched a brace and Ewing was full of praise for the forward as he admits it will be another tough game.
Ewing concluded: “Clare played well against us in the first game of the season. She went off injured but she was heavily involved in their goal and she’s a great player.
“It seems as every week goes by, she is getting fitter and fitter, and she’s definitely a player we’re really aware of. Cork got a fantastic win against Wexford last week so they’ve definitely got quality throughout the side.
“It’ll be a really tough game but it’s a great league this season as every team is taking points off each other and it shows that no game can be taken lightly.”
Continental Tyres Women’s National League Fixtures
20/05 Cork City WFC v Shelbourne, 5pm, Bishopstown
20/05 Peamount United v Kilkenny United WFC, 6.30pm, Greenogue
21/05 UCD Waves v Galway WFC, 2pm, Jackson Park