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The 2019 season of the Women's National League is set to begin tomorrow as Wexford Youths look to defend their WNL crown.

Youths secured the league and cup double last season after a fantastic campaign which also saw them lift the WNL Development Shield.

Ahead of the 2019 campaign, we look at every team in the eight-team league before the action begins on Saturday, March 9.

Club: Wexford Youths
Ground: Ferrycarrig Park
Manager: Tom Elmes
Last season's finish: 1st (Champions)

Wexford Youths will be looking to lift their third consecutive title in a row in the 2019 season after another incredible year last season for the Ferrycarrig Park club.

Tom Elmes joined the club before the start of last season and was able to continue the success with captain Kylie Murphy continuing to be the anchor of the team.

Notable signings: Youths have been busy in the off-season as Elmes have been able to secure the services of former Ireland under-age international Jenny Clifford, who has moved away from the GAA to join the club. Sarah McKevitt has joined from Peamount United where she found first-team opportunities limited and will be looking to prove a point with the Champions this season.

One to Watch: Doireann Fahey - Having moved from Peamount United during the 2018 season, the 17-year old has already established herself within the first-team squad and performed brilliantly in the FAI Cup final. Full-back, centre-back and across the midfield, Fahey's versatility makes her a valuable option for Elmes.

They said: Ciara Rossiter, Wexford Youths - “We can’t wait to get back playing. The atmosphere is buzzing in the camp and pre-season has gone really well. Everyone has been turning up to training and we have had a lot of challenge matches.

"It will be a challenge but I think we have the mental and physical strength to stay at the top and keep going. We are looking to go even better and even push on from last year.”

Club: Shelbourne
Ground: Tolka Park
Manager: Dave Bell
Last season's finish: 2nd

Shelbourne finished just two points behind Champions Wexford Youths in the 2018 season and they'll be well-placed to push them further this season.

With a depth of young talent progressing from their Women's Under-17 League Champions side and the arrival of experienced manager Dave Bell, Shelbourne will be the team to watch this season.

Notable signings: Chloe Mustaki - The former UCD Waves midfielder has made the move across the city to join the Tolka Park club, a huge addition to the Shels midfield.

One to Watch: With Jessica Ziu already well-established in the Shels front-line, watch out for striker Emily Whelan who could make the step up from the Under-17 squad this season. Whelan has already made her full senior international debut and can score goals at any level. Isibeal Atkinson made a huge leap forward last season and will be a major source of goals this campaign. 

They said: Jamie Finn, Shelbourne defender - “The aim this year is to win as many trophies as we can. With this league, you can’t just go out and think you are going to beat teams. It’s a tough league.”

Club: Peamount United
Ground: PRL Park, Greenogue
Manager: James O'Callaghan
Last season's finish: 3rd

After a difficult start, Peamount United really hit their form in the second half of the season and were unlucky to miss out on a double.

O'Callaghan's side lifted the WNL League Cup trophy and narrowly missed out on the FAI Cup after a 1-0 defeat to Youths at the Aviva Stadium.

Notable signings: The only new signing of the off-season, but what a signing! Clare Conlon has returned the WNL for the 2019 season, a great option for the Peas' back-line.

One to Watch: Niamh Farrelly showed fantastic progression last season and is only set to get stronger. Having made her senior international debut against Belgium in January and with experienced campaigner Karen Duggan next to her in the midfield, it should be a big year for Farrelly.

They said: Aine O'Gorman, Peamount United striker - “Everyone is looking forward to getting going after a long pre-season and it is nice to get the competitive games.

“It has gone really well. We have had good games and the training has been a good tempo as well so we are sharp and ready to go."

Club: Galway Women's
Ground: Eamonn Deacy Park
Manager: Billy Clery
Last season's finish: 4th

Galway Women's made fantastic progress last season to finish fourth in the league and they'll be hoping to continue that progress this season.

If they can keep their squad fit and firing, there is real hope that Galway could challenge for honours this season with the amount of young talent in the squad.

Notable signings: Keara Cormican has returned to the team following an injury which ruled her out of last season and should be a valuable addition to the side.

One to Watch: Chloe Singleton made fantastic progress last season and should shine for Billy Clery's youthful side this season. Kayla and Leah Brady could also make the step up from the Under-17 side this season, both under-age internationals. Striker Aislinn Meaney will only get better after a fantastic 2018 campaign. 

They said: Keara Cormican, Galway Women's - “We have a lot of new players in and we have a good few of the under 17’s in training with us as well and that gives good numbers. It puts pressure on the older members of the team and it provides good competition for places.

“I am involved since the beginning of the club so we are into the sixth season. It is good to see the new girls coming in and refreshing the squad."

Club: Cork City FC
Ground: Bishopstown Stadium
Manager: Ronan Collins
Last season's finish: 5th

After winning the FAI Cup in 2017, Cork City will have been disappointed to have finished last season in fifth position as the club failed to make the progress expected of them.

Cork go into the new season without Clare Shine, who sealed a move to Glasgow City last week, and Amanda Budden, who has relocated to Canada.

Notable signings: Zara Foley is set to step up from the club's Women's Under-17 squad whilst Stacey O'Regan has also signed for the club. Under-age international Lauren Egbuloniu has also signed for the club.

One to Watch: Eabha O'Mahony is the one to watch this season. The 16-year old joined the WNL team last season and has already proven herself to be capable at the level. O'Mahony was also in the latest WNT squad for the double-header against Wales.

Club: DLR Waves
Ground: Jackson Park
Manager: Graham Kelly
Last season's finish: 6th

Formerly UCD Waves, DLR Waves are making a lot of positive noises during the off-season and will be hoping to push back up the table in the 2019 season.

Former Bray Wanderers boss Graham Kelly will be leading the team forward for the campaign and has already made hugely positive changes to the players' fitness and training schedules.

Notable signings: Catherine Cronin has returned to the club and has already been named as club captain. Her experience will be invaluable in a youthful squad which sees Nadine Clare step up from the U17 squad.

One to Watch: Scorer of some great goals and Republic of Ireland Women's Under-19 international Keelin McEntee has the ability to grab the headlines. It's also a big season for centre-back Roisin McGovern who'll be looking to fulfil that early promise.

They said: Catherine Cronin - “DLR Waves are very excited. A few good weeks work has been put in and we are all raring to go now and to getting out onto the pitch.

“The first match is against Wexford away from home. We are very excited; a real good effort has gone in since the start of the year.”

Club: Limerick WFC
Ground: Markets Field
Manager: Dave Rooney
Last season's finish: 7th

In their first season in the Women's National League, Limerick impressed by picking a number of results to finish on 10 points and in seventh position.

With an exciting Under-17s team, they'll be a number of young players looking to make the set up as Limerick aim to improve this campaign once again.

Notable signings: Aoife Horgan has signed with the senior squad this season, a player who has played for the Republic of Ireland at under-age level and is expected to lead the line. Keeping hold of Tara Mannix and Marie Curtin are huge positives.

One to Watch: Midfielder Aoibheann Clancy is an exciting prospect for Dave Rooney's club who have a host of exciting youngsters in the set-up. Striker Sophie Liston is also a player to watch.

They said: Marie Curtin - “It is really about the development for us. It is our second year in the league so we are so new to it. We want to get a better season than last year and we are definitely looking to compete. We know we can be competitive in the league.

“We are looking forward to the start of the season. We put in a good pre-season and have some new signings along with some exciting young talent coming through from the U17’s.”

Club: Kilkenny United
Ground: The Watershed
Manager: Kane Lynch
Last season's finish: 8th

Kilkenny United have plenty to be optimistic about with experienced coach Kane Lynch at the helm going into the 2019 season.

Lynch will be looking to improve Kilkenny's position off the bottom of the Women's National League table having only secured two points last season.

Notable signings: Kilkenny United have signed a number of players from their Metropolitan Girls League team and have retained the vast majority of the 2018 squad.

One to Watch: Carla McManus will lead the line once again for the club after an impressive campaign in 2018. The Republic of Ireland Women's Under-19 international has the pace and the direct style of play to trouble every Women's National League defence.

They said: Bronagh Kane - “My big aim for the year is to finish better than we did last year and to try and get a few wins under our belt. We want to give teams a proper run this year and I think we are more prepared for it this year.

“It is exciting. We have a load of new players on board and have got a few wins in challenge games to give us a bit on confidence and we are ready to give Shelbourne a go for the first three points on the board."

What to expect in the 2019 season

The beauty of the 2019 season in the Women's National League is that you can make a convincing case for a number of teams to improve and potentially challenge this season. Wexford Youths are the ones to beat but will be without Emma Hansberry this season after she moved to England. Expect Orla Casey to improve on her impressive campaign last season as the Champions look set to defend their crown. With skipper Kylie Murphy on the pitch and striker Rianna Jarrett still at the club, Youths will be right up there once again. 

Shelbourne will push them close no doubt. In manager Dave Bell, the club has one of the best coaches in the country and his experience will help guide Shels' talented youngsters this season. Bell, known for his attacking style, will be looking to reinvigorate the likes of Alex Kavanagh in midfield and faces a selection headache up front with Jessica Ziu, Emily Whelan, Noelle Murray and Alannah McEvoy all vying for the same positions. 

The third club to be firmly in the title race is Peamount United. The Peas suffered at the start of last season as they bedded in their new signings and were always catching up throughout the campaign. Despite that, James O'Callaghan's side in the second-half of the season were arguably the best with a fantastic WNL League Cup victory against Wexford Youths. They also made the FAI Cup final and performed brilliantly in their 1-0 defeat, beating Shelbourne at Tolka Park in the semi-final. In Karen Duggan and Amber Barrett, they've got two of the best players in the league and if Claire Walsh can recapture her 2017 season form, the spine of the team looks really strong. 

The expectation should be a close-run three-way title race but don't discount Galway Women's or DLR Waves. Galway have an exciting team of youngsters and Billy Clery's side should aim for cup success this season. DLR Waves will progress this season as well. Manager Graham Kelly has the side training four times a week and his level of professionalism will no doubt improve the side this season. 

Women's National League - Series One Fixtures

09/03 - Peamount United v Cork City, PRL Park, Greenogue, 6.30pm
09/03 - Wexford Youths v DLR Waves, Ferrycarrig Park, 6.30pm
10/03 - Kilkenny United v Shelbourne, The Watershed, 2pm
10/03 - Limerick v Galway Women's, Markets Field, 2pm

 

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