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Niamh Connolly was part of the Women's National League from the very beginning as a player. Now, she is on the WNL Committee and is making an impact in a different way.

A defender who read the game well and was able to link play with her passing, Connolly starred for Shamrock Rovers and DLR Waves in the League before hanging up her boots.

She was known to be one of the toughest players to get an edge on so we caught up with her to reflect back on her days in the League as well as her current role.

 

What is your highlight playing in WNL?
I think it was probably DLR’s 2-0 win against Peamount in 2012/13. Peamount were one of the favourites for the title that year, and we were a long way away in mid-table…On the day, we were well organised and fought hard, and deserved the victory in the end, with two goals by Carla Moran I think. It felt really great.

What is your favourite goal that you scored in WNL?
You might not believe this, but I actually scored a half-volley from a corner away to Castlebar Celtic –the best goal I ever scored!

What was the most memorable game you played in WNL?
It has to be the one I mentioned above, against Peamount.

Who was the best player you played with in WNL?
I’m going to go with Sylvia Gee. She had an engine to rival anybody, she never gave anything less than 100%, and she was always capable of scoring an absolute screamer! A valuable asset to any team.

Who was your toughest opponent (player) in WNL?
I think that has to be Caroline Thorpe…although I had the pleasure of playing alongside Calo for many years, I played against her in an U14 all-Ireland final years back, and she stole the show despite not having her hair tied up…she was still stealing the show years later. Honourable mention also goes to Noelle Murray.

Which player in WNL would you have loved your team to sign?
The teams I played for in the WNL always seemed to lack an out-and-out goal scorer…I think Sara Lawlor would have been a great addition.

If you were to pick a WNL All-Star XI, would would make the cut?
This is tough! So many great players I have to leave out…


Avril Kilkelly
Nicola Sinnott-Louise Quinn-Sue Byrne
Aine O’Gorman-Sylvia Gee-Denise O’Sullivan-Caroline Thorpe
Clare Shine-Sara Lawlor-Katie McCabe

Any prized possessions from WNL days? (jersey, photos, medals etc)
Not really unfortunately! I’m delighted that I managed to retire with my knee relatively intact!

How did you get involved in the WNL Committee?
I met Frances Smith at a 20x20 event in the summer of 2019, and we had an in-depth discussion on women’s sport in Ireland. Around that time, the committee were looking to expand and I felt I could add something as an ex-player. I applied with a brief document about my suitability and was co-opted near the end of 2019.

What is the function of the WNL Committee and any exciting plans going forward?
Introducing club licensing to the WNL is a key priority for me. The standard of play in the league, the conditions, the support structures, and the supporter base and league promotion are all crying out for improvement, and club licensing is a major step to enable this progress.