A five-point gap may separate the two sides after the first two games of the season, but it promises to be a fascinating contest…
UCD Waves manager Noel Kealy leads his top-of-the-table side to Women’s National League Champions Shelbourne Ladies on Saturday, admitting it will be a ‘real test’ of his side’s title credentials.
Two wins from two games in the Women’s National League, Waves have set the early season pace with a narrow 1-0 win at Galway WFC and an impressive 5-1 victory over Kilkenny United.
Kealy took over UCD Waves a number of weeks before the start of the season, taking over from previous manager Eileen Gleeson after leaving his position at Kilkenny United.
The Waves boss is delighted with the start to the campaign, stating that the quality of the training and the attitude of the players has been excellent.
Kealy said: “I’m happy with the way it has gone so far. Obviously Eileen left which made the pre-season I had with the team quite short so it was a difficult start.
“The attitude from the players has been brilliant. The quality of the training has been great. In fairness to my time down in Kilkenny, we were doing the same type of training but maybe not to the same level.
“I feel like I’ve had to up my game as a manager for these players and it really helps when the attitude of the players is exceptional.”
UCD Waves finished second in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League last season, eight points behind this weekend’s opponents Shelbourne Ladies.
Despite the impressive start to the campaign, Kealy is targeting continual improvements from his side with a long way to go in the 2017 season.
He added: “We had a tough game down in Galway in the first game of the season and everyone is always a little tentative going into the first game. I was delighted with the performance and the result.
“Our fitness is excellent and we really kicked on in the game against Kilkenny United. The team really showed their quality and I think it really started our season.
“We’re really focusing on ourselves this season and making sure our performance is right. The players will continue to improve as the season goes on and I’m really looking forward to seeing this team develop.”
Waves face Shelbourne at Morton Stadium, with kick-off at 7pm, on Saturday and will welcome into their side Republic of Ireland internationals Aine O’Gorman, Julie Ann-Russell and Karen Duggan.
Shelbourne have only achieved one point from their opening two games but Kealy is wary of the threat from the Champions as they aim to claim silverware this season.
Kealy concluded: “Shelbourne will always be a tough game for anyone in the league. They have always got quality and I’m expecting a really good game between two good sides.
“It’ll be a good test of where we are at. Like any team who is competing for the league, we want to be there at the end of the season. Sliverware has got to be the objective.
“We’ve got the quality and the depth in the squad to do that but we’ve got to continue to improve and keep refining those details as the season goes on.”
Continental Tyres Women’s National League Fixtures
15/04 Cork City WFC v Peamount United, Bishopstown Stadium, 5pm
15/04 Shelbourne Ladies v UCD Waves, Morton Stadium, 7pm
16/04 Kilkenny United v Wexford Youths, The Watershed, 2pm