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Wednesday 27 August 2014

A brand new dawn

Published 29/01/2014 | 05:44

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IT may be his first year with the Wicklow ladies team but Robert Hollingsworth is no rookie when it comes to knowing ladies GAA.

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It may be his first year with the Wicklow ladies team but Robert Hollingsworth is no rookie when it comes to knowing ladies GAA.

Having spent six years coaching the ladies in his home club of St. Patrick's the time was right for the Wicklow man to go a step further.

When the county board advertised the position it jumped out at Robert and he has been delighted with how things have gone so far.

The team have been back training sine the first week of December and so are well on track for their 2014 ambitions, that's according to Robert:

"It's something I would have always thought about but was very involved with my own club so never really went about doing it, I was in once or twice to do a couple of sessions over the last few years and really enjoyed it and so when I seen the ad I jumped at it and met the board and thankfully got the position. We've set targets for the year and hopefully we can reach those targets," he said.

When we read about intercounty management it's usually about high profiled jobs like Jim McGuinness in Donegal, James Horan in Mayo, or Jim Gavin in Dublin. It's rare that a job such as the one Robert has taken up gets much attention, indeed, ladies football in general doesn't get the same support, coverage or profile as their male counterparts and so the jobs are not often as appealing but Robert says that's the challenge, and he looks forward to it:

"It's a challenge for me, but until you go for it and try and make the difference it'll never change, there's the stigma around about weaker counties and this and that but I don't think that's right.

"The footballers we have in Wicklow are just as good as any you only have to look at the numbers we have in training to see how serious our girls are about their football"

When it comes to county teams, especially those seen as the "weaker" counties, commitment is always a big issue, but when handled in the correct way, like the new manager did, people buy into an idea and get on board:

"We met the clubs and chatted to the girls and talked it out, got everything on the table and they told us their plans and we told them we were going to be as professional as we could possibly be and I'll be honest I thought not all of the girls were going to commit but I was delighted when anyone we talked to came in, it was great to see," he said.

The league is just around the corner now for Wicklow and Robert Hollingsworth is not one bit shy in setting out big goals for his team and his county.

"We told the girls from day one that the ambition is to win the league straight. Simple as that. We are too good to be in Division 4, we need to be getting out of here and up the divisions and we will do that with the quality of the footballers we have in here and once they believe in it then that'll help us get to where we want to be," he said.

Roscommon is the first game up and Hollingsworth sees that as the first step towards promotion.

"We play Roscommon first and then we are away to Antrim and so they will be good tests but we need to be getting through these games and progressing all the time, the league is where it starts, we'll take the championship when it comes, the Wicklow ladies won the Junior All-Ireland a few years ago and now in Intermediate there's not really a whole lot of difference but we'll take championship when it comes," he insisted.

Support of ladies football tends not to be as good as the men's games but Hollingsworth says there are a lot of good reasons to support ladies football.

"In ladies football you only get the family and friends of players coming to games or maybe a few club supporters coming but that's the way it is and that's how it has been for years, but I think ladies football is a lot more pure than the men's, with no disrespect to men's football, it's brilliant and it's a game which I've played myself for years, but with the ladies you don't get as many egos maybe or as much cynicism, it's very honest and genuine and the girls train as hard as anyone for their county," he said.

The panel is big with Wicklow this year but the manager says it's open ended.

"If there's someone out there that wants to play for the county or feels they have something to offer then I'd ask them to get in touch and we can meet them and have a chat about what we and they want, we have 31 on the panel and that's big but we wouldn't turn anybody away that wants to represent Wicklow," he said.

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