Among the sea of new faces at DLR Waves this season will be a rather more familiar one in defender Rebekah Carroll, who has returned from a two-year stint in the UK.
Carroll was part of the then-UCD Waves side who contested FAI Cup finals in 2014 and 2017, losing out on both occasions to Raheny United and Cork City.
After stepping out of football to complete a master’s degree in cellular pathology in Manchester, the Lucan native returned home as the pandemic struck last March.
One of the heartening threads in sport over the past year has been the highlighting of the many medical professionals who compete at the top level across codes and disciplines.
Shelbourne’s Ciara Grant has worked on the frontlines as a doctor during the crisis, as has Waves’ captain and nurse Catherine Cronin, while Carroll is a laboratory scientist in Beaumount Hospital.
Feeling the itch to get back into football, she contacted former Waves teammates Cronin who, like Carroll, is a medical professional, and the decision to rejoin the club was, she says, easy.
“As soon as I came back, I wanted to get involved in the National League again. But I came back mid-season, so I thought I’d start off fresh with the new season,” Carroll tells the Dublin Gazette.
“I got onto a few of the girls from what was UCD and is now DLR and asked them about pre-season, and it was the team I was most comfortable with in previous seasons.
“I got onto Catherine, who is now captain, and asked about the possibility of coming to training and what the culture is like. She gave me Graham [Kelly]’s number and I was like ‘let me train,’ basically.”
The 24-year-old played with Ireland all the way up to under-19 level and represented her country at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan, working under then senior international boss Colin Bell.
“It was an incredible experience. There’s nothing I could compare it to except maybe the Olympics – it’s like a student Olympics essentially.
“I went over with great friends who are now playing really high up, the likes of Amber Barrett and Rianna Jarrett who are now playing abroad.
“Learning from Colin Bell was a great experience. But being in the environment of being surrounded by such elite athletes in all different disciplines of sport was very inspiring.”
Carroll, whose brother Jake plays for Motherwell in Scotland following stints with St Patrick’s Athletic, Huddersfield Town and Cambridge United, has been inspired by the latest crop of young players.
The likes of Oleta Griffin and Nicole Keogh at Waves are products of the under-17 National League, as are full internationals like Jessica Ziu and Emily Whelan.
It’s left Carroll a little wary of returning to the league – she jokes she may have forgotten how to kick a ball – but she is impressed by what she’s seen.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the standard of the other teams because I know a lot of development has gone into them.
“I might have experience but I don’t know how it’s going to stand against these new players. They are all so dedicated to it – when I was at their age I wasn’t so dedicated or as committed.”