Saturday 21 September 2019

Sinead Kissane: 'Ryan Doyle typifies new wave of talent at progressive Peamount '


'Tomorrow Ryan Doyle (20) will play in her first Continental Tyres FAI Women's Cup final with Peamount United.' Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
'Tomorrow Ryan Doyle (20) will play in her first Continental Tyres FAI Women's Cup final with Peamount United.' Photo: Barry Cregg/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

Eleanor Ryan Doyle was eight years old when she started playing football with Peamount United.

Being an eight-year-old didn't restrict her playing with just one club. She also played with the boys' team at Beechpark FC until she was 12.

She was the only girl on the team and would have heard the sniggers from some boys on opposition teams about her being a girl on a boys' team.

Not that she really minded. Playing against boys made her better. And tougher.

"When I was playing against them I think I gave them a kick or two," Ryan Doyle laughs.

"When you're young, you just want to play no matter who you're playing with."

Ryan Doyle is a forward and so had a particular attachment to other strikers.

When she had to decide on a confirmation name it was simple. Ronaldo. Her mother said she needed a more religious-sounding name. What about Cristiano, she asked? No go. She settled for Mary-Ann. Maybe just as well.

Tomorrow Ryan Doyle (20) will play in her first Continental Tyres FAI Women's Cup final with Peamount United.

She played with UCD Waves for a few seasons before returning to her childhood club which is high on family involvement.

Her mother, Barbara, is kit-woman with the team. She washes and irons the jerseys and shorts, organises the water bottles, the food, the jellies for half-time.

Her mam travels with them everywhere on the team bus. Her dad, Darren, films all their matches and clips up relevant footage for the manager James O'Callaghan.

Her 11-year-old brother, Niall, also travels everywhere with the women's team and plays with the boys' team at Peamount, while her older sister Emily helps out at the gate on match days.

Peamount United, based in Newcastle, Co Dublin, has been a leading club in the development of girls' and women's football.

It currently has seven underage female teams as well as the senior women's team.

Peamount was one of seven founding teams in the Women's National League and won the competition in its first two years (2011-'12, 2012-'13).

The club has twice competed in the UEFA Women's Champions League.

Some of the most well-known names have played with the club - Stephanie Roche, Katie Taylor and Louise Quinn - and the team which will play in the FAI Women's Cup final tomorrow against Wexford Youth Women's FC will boast current and former Republic of Ireland internationals like Amber Barrett, Aine O'Gorman and Karen Duggan.

When there are players like that around, no wonder other girls can imagine a dream of playing for their country.

Like Ryan Doyle, Peamount defender Lauryn O'Callaghan has been part of underage Republic of Ireland squads.

O'Callaghan (19) has been playing with Peamount since she was 11. She plays at right full-back, a position which can leave a player pretty exposed if mistakes are made.

But O'Callaghan always remembers what her dad used to say to her as she got out of the car for Ireland trials at the AUL. "Be strong. Don't drop the head. Don't let the fear get into you."

If O'Callaghan makes a mistake, she says her follow-up action is to shout instructions to one of her team-mates. It's her way of diverting the anxiety of what just happened into something useful.

"If I make a bad pass or anything, it's so easy to go in on yourself and shy away. When that happens I usually just try to shout something to get it out of my head and help the team as well," O'Callaghan says. "I find that works, just shakes it out of me".

O'Callaghan's dad James is the senior women's team manager at Peamount.

After being coach for a few seasons, this is his first season as manager. They've already won a trophy this season - they beat Wexford 2-1 in the League Cup final.

So with a player and the manager in the household, tomorrow is a pretty big day in the O'Callaghan family. And if anyone can tell if the manager is feeling a little nervous, it's his daughter.

"He definitely does get nervous," Lauryn says. "Even before any game, a game in the league or the FAI Cup, he always tries to play it cool but I always know that he does be nervous."

Being the manager's daughter can come with its own, at times, awkward pressure.

Preferential treatment? As if.

"There's probably that bit more added pressure on me to play well because if I'm not playing well it's obviously in my head that other players are thinking, 'oh, her dad is the manager' but fortunately that's never been the case," O'Callaghan admits.

"I just try and focus on the game and try to be the best player that I can because I know that if I'm not playing well, I know that he'll just take me off."

A Women's National League game might attract a couple of hundred spectators at best, but interest for tomorrow's final has been unprecedented.

"The ticket demands from within the club itself is astronomical," Jason Carey, director of football at Peamount United, says.

The club have tried to innovate when it comes to trying to attract as much sponsorship as possible. Last weekend, the club tweeted a photo of the women's squad with the line that there are sponsorship opportunities available.

Carey says they're trying to tap into the 20x20 initiative, presented recently by the Federation of Irish Sport, which aims to increase participation, coverage and attendance of female sport by 20pc by 2020.

Sometimes girls just need to be shown something to understand what's possible.

O'Callaghan's 10-year-old sister, Leah, is the mascot for the team tomorrow.

"She's more into dancing now than football but she loves being around the girls and the whole atmosphere," O'Callaghan says before remembering that she herself didn't have any female footballers to look up to when she was that age because there weren't many around. That's changed. "When I was younger I couldn't really think of any female footballers but now I'm playing with them."

Watch out. The new wave of footballers are coming.

Irish Independent

The Left Wing: Ireland's fullback dilemma, World Cup bonding and the squad standby list

Also in Sport