Limerick FC Women's manager Dave Rooney
There have been ups and plenty of downs, but ever since Limerick FC announced that they would be represented in the Women’s National League for the first time last year, David Rooney has never lost faith in what he is trying to achieve.
A project based on youth and an investment in women’s football on Shannonside certainly seemed like it came to fruition recently as Limerick FC Women secured their place in the semi-finals of the Só Hotels Women’s National League Cup thanks to a 1-0 win over Galway.
As the sun shone down on the immaculate surface in the Fairgreen, Rooney reiterated his belief that the future is bright for his young guns.
Newly formed Limerick had only ever beaten basement side Kilkenny but victory over the Tribeswomen came of no real surprise to the former Galway United goalkeeping coach.
“It has been coming a while,” said Rooney after his young side defeated Galway Women’s FC in dramatic fashion. “I have huge belief in the squad.”
The passionate Dubliner is putting his faith in a new generation of talent, a team he says that once it finds its feet in the league will be a “different beast altogether”.
That faith was duly rewarded when goalkeeper Karen Connolly, who just turned 18, rose to the occasion to save an injury time penalty to send Limerick through.
Since the heavy 6-1 defeat against Wexford Youths at the Markets Field last month, Dave Rooney’s side have noticeably adopted a more compact setup, with Maura Shine flourishing in her new role in front of the back four.
Reminiscing on a significant learning curve, Rooney sees the outcome of the Galway game as one that is the end result of many months of hard work and self-belief in the club’s long-term project.
"I’ve probably got it wrong a few times. We opened up a little bit against Wexford in the first half – you don’t that against the champions. We wanted to take them on and they ripped us apart. We went back to basics in the last couple of weeks.
Following the loss to Tom Elmes’ high-flyers, Limerick went on to narrowly lose out to Cork City, after they were reduced to ten players, a game which Rooney’s side began to show more resilience.
“I thought we were really good against Cork,” he said. “Bar the sending off I thought we could have probably got something out of that game.”
Last season Galway finished in the top four in the league, an outcome that Rooney believes will repeat itself this year.
With this in mind, he said that Limerick’s long-term goal is to break into the top half of the Women’s National League whilst continuing to focus on youth development in the region.
“Galway have a lot of under-19 internationals in the squad and we’ve a lot of under-16 and under-17 internationals so that tells you where we are. We are probably two years, age wise, behind Galway. They are a similar club to us. They looking to develop young players and get them involved,” added Rooney.
A prime example of this is Republic of Ireland under-17 midfielder, Sophie Liston who has Dave Rooney singing her praises.
“Sophie is class. In all teams you have grafters, players that will do the hard yards, and big strong centre halves but you need ‘'X-factors’ and Sophie has the ‘X-factor’. Aoife Horgan has the ‘X-factor’. Aoife is just back from a virus so she kind of gassed out towards the end but the two of them players [Sophie Liston and Aoife Horgan] are going to play at the highest level in this country. They are going to play for the national team; it is only a matter of time.”
Penalty hero Connolly secured the win against Galway, a young player that Rooney says “sums up everything about us this year”.
“She’s only just turned 18. She couldn’t get into the Galway squad – she had four goalkeepers ahead of her so we took her down. She has absolutely broken her backside to get into the side. She has pushed a seasoned goalkeeper out of the number one position and made it her own. She just sums up where we are going as a club,” he added.