In the west a new generation of talent is beginning to emerge and flourish. Galway WFC U19s are on the glory trail at Eamonn Deacy Park in a national cup final against DLR Waves on Sunday.
It will end a hectic seven days following two key league matches in recent days, but goalkeeper Hannah Walsh is simply delighted to be involved.
Teenager Walsh, one of many to accumulate first team experience in 2021, is hugely optimistic about the encouraging signs for Galway WFC. “It is a busy week, we aren't getting much time to think about it, that can be a good thing too,” she says.
“The player pathway is really evident, the U19s has been instrumental in that, especially merging between the U17s and seniors because there is a big gap there.
“Last year it was disappointing to see a few players drop off because they didn't quite get to the senior team, but this year it was great to have a few of them back in. They will be pushing for the senior team next year.
“It is great to see the U19s pathway there for U17s to come up. We have had a few of the U17s in the squad, it is great to have them in around the team, getting used to the environment, also training up with the seniors, it is really intense, it is good for players and the younger players that there is always a battle for places. It only is positive and it is on the up.”
Walsh highlights the role that local clubs have occupied in assisting players. “From Cregmore I think there is seven of us in the U19s squad now so it is absolutely massive,” Walsh adds.
“The Galway League clubs has been huge for the development of Galway Women's FC. I remember going to the senior matches with Dad when I was younger, but there never really was that pathway.
“It was always a big jump, it was a wish and hope that you would make that jump when you got to 17 or 18, but thankfully by the time I reached 15 there was U17s for the first season.”
Daughter of the great St Michael’s man Davy, Hannah Walsh is enjoying her own sporting career.
“It all fell at a great time because I got my three years at U17s and now I'm into my first year with the U19s,” she adds. “It is great that it is there, it shows a pathway for players. Even last weekend being at the senior game with all of the young boys and girls, you would notice the few from Cregmore there, they were so excited.
“It is nice for them to see a pathway is there, to see that they can look up to see they can play for Galway Women's, even at a younger age for the U17s and U19s, it isn't just that big jump to senior. So we are hoping to get them all out this weekend, they seemed to enjoy it.
“It is a special group, anyone looking in is jealous about how close we are as a group, how well we have gelled together from the first year.
“A lot of us are there for four years now since 2017, that very first year. It is great we have stuck it out together, we have all gelled well, it is a credit to Phil and the management team, they have stuck by us for four years. It is nice to see that we have stuck together, that we do enjoy playing. When you enjoy playing you do get the rewards too.”
Emphasis is always placed on role models in sport. The Galway WFC first team squad is sprinkled with class with Walsh recalling Republic of Ireland international Savannah McCarthy’s quiet intervention during the summer.
“It is massive,” Walsh replies. “I remember the Thursday before we played Shels when I made my senior debut when Stephen said we are starting you this weekend. I remember Sav came over, wrapped her arms around me and said it was no bother to you.
“Little things like that stood to you, she mightn't have thought it was a big thing, but to hear that from your captain, that she trusted you for your first game gave you a massive confidence boost. I think it is nice to see how far they have come, they are always egging you on in training, pushing you harder.”
**Listen to the full interview with Galway WFC U19 captain Hannah Walsh on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.