Ones to watch

8 exciting talents who'll lead the way in this year's Women's National League

We go again, with Wexford Youths eyeing three in-a-row in 2019.


THE Women’s National League (WNL) returns this evening and there’s plenty to be excited about as Wexford Youths defend their crown — and the seven other teams play the chasing game.

There’s heaps of talent on show in the league, from top to bottom, across the length and breadth of the country. From stalwarts of the game to the endless amounts of youth breaking through, here’s a few players — one from each of the sides — to keep an eye on.

Kylie Murphy (Wexford Youths)

Kylie Murphy Kylie Murphy. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Youths are chasing three in-a-row this year and if they are to achieve the remarkable feat, their captain in Kylie Murphy will be central to it all.

Pretty much everything on the field went through the skipper as the Ferrycarraig Park outfit did the treble last year, with her leadership around the middle the heartbeat of Tom Elmes’ side. An injury-free Rianna Jarrett is also an exciting prospect.

Niamh Farrelly (Peamount United)

Niamh Farrelly Niamh Farrelly. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The 19-year-old had a stellar season last time out, and her star is only going to continue to rise in 2019 after making her Ireland senior debut in January. “She’s a really bright prospect,” as captain Áine O’Gorman told The42 earlier this week. “She’ll be key for us this season.”

With another retired Ireland star, Karen Duggan, by her side in midfield, Farrelly will thrive. In a star-studded team, she’s the ideal feeder of the ball to Amber Barrett up top.

Saoirse Noonan (Cork City)

Saoirse Noonan and Catherine Cronin Saoirse Noonan. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Although out injured as her recovery from a cruciate injury nears its end, Noonan’s return to action will surely light the league up whenever it does happen.

The Ireland underage international was hitting her prime before the unfortunate injury cursed her progress; her endless goals hugely important for the Leesiders. Also a ridiculously talented Cork senior Gaelic footballer, another big year is inevitable for the dual star.

Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne)

Jessica Ziu Jessica Ziu. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The 16-year-old has been making a right name for herself of late, rewarded with call-ups to Colin Bell’s Ireland squad after establishing herself as a regular in the Shels’ forward line. 

She had an impressive debut season in the WNL last year and while still an underage international, Ziu is destined for big things with her pace and eye for goal valuable assets to any team she plays on.

Erica Turner (DLR Waves)

Erica Turner Erica Turner. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

It’s not often a goalkeeper makes these lists but the 2018 WNL Young Player of the Year most certainly deserves a place here. 

An Ireland U19 international, Turner has been instrumental for UCD Waves — now DLR Waves — since making the breakthrough to the senior fold. After their re-brand, her side face a tough test against the champions to start out but with Turner between the posts, they should fare well. 

Aislinn Meaney (Galway Women’s)

Tyler Toland and Aislinn Meaney Aislinn Meaney. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Meaney had a stellar 2018 campaign and will look to carry that form through to the new season. The NUIG student and Clare native made her Ireland senior debut last January and confidence from that filtered through to her league performances.

Still only 19, the midfielder is definitely one to keep a close eye on as the Westerners get up and running once again and hope to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish.

Aoife Horgan (Limerick WFC)

Pipped by Shelbourne rising star Emily Whelan to 2018 WNL U17 League Player of the Year, Horgan has graduated to the senior ranks this season.

An Ireland underage international, she has buckets of talents and will more than likely lead the line for Dave Rooney’s side at Markets Field and beyond. Back-boned by youth, Limerick’s U17 team’s transition to senior will reap its rewards sooner rather than later.

Carla McManus (Kilkenny United)

After a superb 2018, McManus will lead the Kilkenny charge once again this year.

Another Ireland U19 international, her electric pace, accuracy and sublime finishing will be a severe threat for any opposition her side face. But after winning just two points last season and finishing bottom, improvements across the board are needed.

This weekend’s WNL fixtures

09/03 – Peamount United v Cork City, PRL Park, Greenogue, 6.30pm.
09/03 – Wexford Youths v DLR Waves, Ferrycarrig Park, 6.30pm.

10/03 – Kilkenny United v Shelbourne, The Watershed, 2pm.
10/03 – Limerick v Galway Women’s, Markets Field, 2pm.

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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