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By DAVE HOOPER

Press releases from the Football Association of Ireland are one thing that keeps my phone busy, although one in particular from August 2011 sticks in my mind.

At the time I was producing a two-hour Saturday afternoon show on Near FM. The reliable’s made up the schedule, Champions League, Premier League and SSE Airtricity League, but we still wanted to keep a focus on North Dublin football.

This particular press release was to launch the new FAI Women’s National League with seven teams on the list and the name Raheny United stuck out like a sore thumb.

I didn’t know then but four years after visiting their first game in Morton Stadium, just about a 30-minute walk from Near FM’s studio, this was just the start of covering what truly was a whole new ball game.

Seven teams, Raheny United, Peamount United, Shamrock Rovers, Castlebar Celtic, Cork Women’s FC, Wexford Youths and Bray Wanderers were announced in August, though Bray never made the blocks when the others set off in November.

Six teams, three rounds and a very intriguing season went ahead. The Matchday 2 fixture between Raheny and Cork was my first taste. Cork parked the bus, Raheny snatched a goal from a corner.

The following week Near FM carried the first live broadcast of a WNL game, when Raheny scored a surprise victory over Peamount United. This was all a bit strange and new for reporters, supporters and players.

Coaches were a bit unsure what to say, reporters weren’t 100 per cent sure what to ask, and supporters - with the exception of the Raheny Ultras; a core of fans who followed Shelbourne on Friday nights and just made slight changes to the Shelbourne songs they sung - politely watched and encouraged.

It was very much uncharted waters. There was a real sense of what happens next? In that first game, the Cork team trotted out on the pitch but they were whistled back by the referee to adhere to the correct walk on - this was the big time now!

Things have changed a fair bit since then. History has been written with three different winners - Peamount, Raheny, and Wexford - and clubs have even set their way into some traditions.

Dublin side DLR Waves joined for the second season with Galway WFC arriving a year later. Shamrock Rovers stepped out, UCD and DLR joined forces as did Raheny United and Shelbourne. 

This season - the fifth - saw Kilkenny United welcomed to the party. Kilkenny may be a city without a men’s senior team, but well look what the ladies can do.

I’ve been covering WNL since the start, I reckon that was a nice warm up.

 

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