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Dublin: 0°C Monday 1 March 2021

‘There was a lot of stuff that hit Kilkenny at once... It was sad to see them go’

Bronagh Kane on seeing her team removed from the Women’s National League and a new start with Athlone.

Bronagh Kane captained Kilkenny last year.
Bronagh Kane captained Kilkenny last year.

IT’S BEEN A frustrating few months for everyone involved in the Women’s National League.

Even before the pandemic, there was some turmoil, with Kilkenny United removed from the league, having endured a torrid time, winning just one league match during their five seasons in the top flight.

Meanwhile, Treaty United, Bohemian FC and Athlone Town AFC were all added to the new-look WNL, with a total of nine teams set to participate once the season does belatedly get underway.

Of course, the coronavirus caused further chaos, with the campaign’s start postponed as a result, though there have been signs of progress of late, with confirmation on Wednesday that Peamount United will begin their European campaign in a Champions League qualifying round mini-tournament, played between 7 and 13 October.

The reigning champions were back in collective training during the week, while others are set to follow suit shortly.

One of the many players impacted is Bronagh Kane. She captained Kilkenny last season, but left the club following their WNL removal and linked up with Athlone.

“It’s a big change going from training three-four times a week with your club to having no training, but our team has adapted quite well,” she tells The42.

“One of the girls on our team is a personal trainer, we’re lucky to have her. She does Zoom calls twice a week and gives us running plans. The management staff have been a massive help to us too. They’ve been sending us runs to do and different workouts.

“I’m lucky enough to have a gym in the house as well, we got one put in there.”

It was announced on Friday that both men’s and women’s teams at the top level could return to full-contact training and play friendly matches from 29 June in accordance with new Government guidelines, while the FAI say that “talks are ongoing with regard to an August start date for the Women’s National League”.

Kane was kept busy during the lockdown by the family business, which is the local Spar shop in her native Tullamore, often working as many as seven days a week there, while also keeping fit with various workouts and running on a daily basis.

Just getting up every morning, going in, coming home, getting workouts done, get in, get to sleep, back up again — the same routine every day for literally the last two-three months,” she explains.

Kane has recently completed a four-year degree at IT Carlow and has applied for a master’s in Business Management.

She also has undertaken a Uefa B license as she considers a future career in coaching, while she already has some experience in that regard, managing Tullamore U14s as well as a Gaynor Cup side.

At 22, Kane has already had first-hand experience of the harsh realities of women’s football, after the three-year stint at Kilkenny ended in disappointing fashion.

“Everything has its problems, whether it’s new players coming in or managers leaving,” she says.

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“The pitches, you’ve problems with them, and finance. Unfortunately, with Kilkenny this year, it hit them all at once.

“I captained the team last year and the team I had around me were brilliant, no matter what. We got draws against Cork and DLR Waves [last year].

“No matter what the score was, our team came back together for every training session. We just worked harder and harder. Unfortunately, it had to come to an end.

“Then, with the likes of Bohs and Athlone coming in, that’s where most of our players went. It’s more convenient and closer for most of us, because most of the Kilkenny team were Dublin-based. It was easier for a lot of them to play at Bohs and easier for myself and some of the girls just to go to Athlone.

“I think everyone saw [the end] coming. There was a lot of stuff that hit Kilkenny at once. We just weren’t able to deal with it at all.

“It was sad to see them go. Playing with them last year, we had an unbelievable team and we stuck by each other no matter what.”

As with many players, Kane has found it difficult to fill the football-shaped void in her life since the restrictions were implemented.

“I just miss weekend games and training in the evenings. I didn’t realise how much time football did take up in my life.

“Having to travel to training and then doing your two and a half hours of training and then travelling home. It took up about six hours some days, because I was travelling from Carlow. It just goes to show how much time and effort you put into it, and now all the time you have spare at the moment.

When you’re with the team, they motivate you to do well. The pre-season we had, we were worked massively. You could see improvements in all of our fitness. With Athlone, being a new team, we had to gel together and we were finally starting to gel. We had a few pre-season friendlies. We played Cork and Galway, and beat them. We were starting to come together but [the lockdown] did have a big effect.”

Kane is hopeful the season can go ahead as normal, but acknowledges teams may have to settle for a reduced fixture list, given that under normal circumstances, the WNL season would be at its halfway point around now.

As someone who has won an All-Ireland in futsal and was also a keen GAA player at one point, lining out for Offaly as a youngster, Kane is desperate to get back doing what she loves.

The enforced stoppage has also given the midfielder an opportunity to reflect and look ahead to the future, with an Ireland cap among her primary goals.

And given that current internationals such as Stephanie Roche and Aine O’Gorman are part of the league, there is no reason why others cannot follow suit.

“I think everyone’s dream is to get a cap for Ireland. I did all the trials coming up to the World Student Games. Unfortunately, at that last hurdle, I got dropped from the team, so that was a bit of a setback, because it was probably my biggest opportunity to get a cap for Ireland. But if the opportunity does come, I’d 100% take it.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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