Monday 26 August 2019

Sloan having the time of her life at Mourne helm

Caoibhe Sloan. Photo: Sportsfile
Caoibhe Sloan. Photo: Sportsfile

Daragh Small

With joint-manager Peter Lynch on one elbow and her father Anthony on the other, 29-year-old Caoibhe Sloan is having the year of her life in charge of the Down ladies footballers.

Late last year Sloan and Lynch were put in charge of the county side, with the aim of lifting standards, improving results and helping the players enjoy their sport again.

Wins over Offaly and Meath bookended a successful drive to remain in Division 3 of the Lidl National League earlier this year, but following last weekend's defeat to Sligo, their intermediate championship hopes rest on tomorrow's encounter with Limerick in Burren.

Sloan was brought up on the Down side of the Armagh border near Camlough, while she was schooled in the Co Armagh village of Bessbrook. It's no surprise that her short club career featured spells with Iveagh Bosco in Newry and Shane O'Neill's in Armagh.

Footsteps

Life as a manager started in 2016 at Shane O'Neill's, but it's only a shock that it took her 26 years to follow in her father's managerial footsteps.

"It's not a romantic or fairytale story. Everybody loves the county player that comes back and coaches, but that's not me at all. I've just found myself here," said Sloan, who teaches English at St Patrick's Grammar School in Armagh.

"My father coached Newry Mitchels and is part of our backroom team this year as well. He has a brilliant football brain. There are videos of me following him about at the age or three or four, running on to the pitch after him.

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"Instead of players, I looked up to a manager and without really knowing it, that's what I became. I absolutely love it. I eat, sleep and breathe it. You love going to training, you're getting the best out of people. The girls are starting to really enjoy their football and so are we. That's what we want to do, to try and get people to love the game."

It's no surprise that there are moments of self-doubt when you're the youngest inter-county manager on the scene and one of just three female managers in the ladies football championship - Armagh duo Lorraine McCaffrey and Fionnuala McAtamney are the others.

On the sideline, Sloan says she feels at home, coaxing the best out of her players. But when it comes to some other parts of the job, she needs a little bit of reassurance. Thankfully, Sloan has a bank of support to draw from.

"It's funny, on the way in to Croke Park for the championship launch, somebody tried to usher me in to get a jersey and a pair of shorts on to go with the players for the photos.

"Sometimes you wish you were a 50-year-old man and you'd fit in so much better. But I was on the phone to home and they told me: 'Wise up. Stand yourself up straight and tall. You have a job to do and you're doing it well. Them Down girls are loving it, don't be so silly'.

"That's all it takes is a reassuring voice to say: 'keep going; so what if they're all a lot older; you know what you bring'. That's what we need to tell the girls as well, they need to know it doesn't matter if they're the only girl there. Just do it, just get involved, just don't be afraid," she added.

Déise demand fixture fair play

The Waterford camogie squad are demanding a meeting with the Camogie Association to discuss changes to the sport "to allow our game and players to flourish" after fixture changes and clashes with ladies football threatening to scupper their season.

In a statement released to Sportstalk.ie, the Waterford panel voiced frustrations after the "late notice" of a fixture change greatly affected many players.

"Members of our senior camogie panel work weekends, to finance their college, education and fund their sport participation. Late notice impacts upon working hours, causing financial loss," the statement read.

"Allowing the change of date of an All-Ireland Senior Camogie championship match with five days' notice disrespects players' efforts.

"We stand with our ladies football colleagues and agree no player should be in a situation where they have to choose between representing their county at camogie or ladies football.

"Change needs to happen within the Camogie Association to ensure players are recognised as athletes."

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