A PRE-SEASON trip to face Glasgow Celtic convinced DLR Waves boss Graham Kelly that the gap in standards from the Women’s National League to full-time professional football is relatively small.
The south Dublin side were invited to Glasgow for a weekend last month and, though they lost 4-0 on the day, it was an invaluable way to kick off their series of pre-season games.
Defender Niamh Prior, a senior Irish international, trained with Celtic for the week leading up to the game before lining out for Waves.
While the opportunity to experience the full-time set-up in Glasgow was beneficial, the main take away for Kelly was that his amateur side aren’t all that far away in talent or ability.
“We went over there and had a really good time,” Kelly told Dublin Gazette.
“To go over there and play against a professional team in a full-time set-up – and the invite is there for us to go again – is fantastic. It’s a relationship we can hopefully build on in future.
“Playing against a club like Celtic, they’re massive. So for the girls to go over [was great].
“The night before we played, the first-team manager Fran Alonso and David Hay, who was head of the women’s academy, came down to the hotel.
“They did a presentation to the girls on Celtic Football Club and how they’re now going professional. It was a good insight for the girls into how a club like Celtic are trying to go pro.
“And to see what we’re doing here, we’re not a million miles away from it.
“Financially, we’re a million miles behind, but what we’re doing on the pitch is very similar.”
Kelly has managed to keep the bulk of last season’s squad, who finished sixth from eight teams in the Women’s National League, while adding a pinch of extra quality.
Defender Oleta Griffin has arrived from Kilkenny United following their exit from the league.
Young players like Amy Murphy, Mel Clarke and Katie Malone have arrived from junior football.
Club captain Catherine Cronin and ex-Ireland goalkeeper Eve Badana have both stayed on and, along with Rachel Doyle, will form the core of experience on which the young side can build.
“Niamh Prior and Fiona Donnelly are only 21, but we’re so young they are our experienced players. Eve is excellent around the squad, Catherine the club captain and the vice-captain.
“It’s brilliant to have these girls that will help the younger girls develop. You can see how some of the girls that played last year, how they’ve pushed on this year.
“We hope to try and break into that fourth or fifth position. Finishing sixth last year; you want to try and build on it and maybe take in a good cup run.
“We’ve goals, we’ve individual goals and team goals as a unit, and we want to close the gap on the top three, Wexford, Peamount and Shels.
“We need to try close the gap with Galway and Cork, and Athlone have had a really good pre-season as well and they’re going to be tough.”