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'He worries about us as people first and then as players second. I think that's very important'

Katie Burdis and DLR Waves are targeting a top-four finish this season under the watchful eye of Graham Kelly.

DLR Waves manager Graham Kelly.
DLR Waves manager Graham Kelly.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

KATIE BURDIS IS well-versed to speak about the really positive environment at DLR Waves.

It’s about much fore more than football at the south Dublin Women’s National League [WNL] side — formerly called UCD Waves — that are managed by Graham Kelly.

Burdis recently spoke out about her mental health struggles over the years, posting a tweet last month which was met with a string of supportive replies from her team-mates. In an interview with The42 last week, the 21-year-old delved deeper into her story, with no shortage of praise shared for those around her at DLR.

That filters down from the top. From Kelly, who took the reigns as manager ahead of the 2019 season having spent almost four years as head coach at Bray Wanderers.

“Graham has been great to me, he’s been great to everyone, I really enjoy playing under him as a manager,” Burdis says. “Obviously he came from the men’s so that was a huge change for him, he even says himself.

“But he’s settled in really well I think. I really enjoy playing under him, he’s constantly checking in on us, and he worries about us as people first and then as players second. I think that’s very important.”

Her mind wanders for a second, before she comes back with a great point.

“Actually as well, we’ve recently introduced a period tracker app, which I think goes unnoticed a lot in women’s sport. It shows us lots of info on it on and for training, what kind of phase you’re in, what you need to be consuming and it also makes the lads aware if someone isn’t performing or is tired or is more injury-prone and stuff.

“I think that’s a great addition that we brought in this season as well.”

It’s one of many positive developments in the DLR set-up through the off-season, the side last to kick off their 2021 campaign having lay idle last weekend.

They face Wexford Youths today at the UCD Bowl [KO 6pm] after watching the 2017 and 2018 champions fall to a gut-wrenching 1-0 opening day defeat to title holders Peamount United last weekend.

And Burdis backs her side, who finished sixth last season, to drive on after a busy pre-season with plenty of new talent on board. 

“Each year, it’s another step in the right direction with DLR. It’s a very professional set-up. In the off-season, we all had running we had to do, we were doing Zooms to make sure everyone was keeping in touch and so that we weren’t coming back in sluggish when we were doing pre-season.

“We were back in with good fitness that we could build on. I think it’s definitely benefitted [us] and we’ve been excellent in games this pre-season. A lot of managers have come back to Graham talking about our fitness and stuff. It has only benefitted us.

kt graham Burdis with Kelly. Source: DLR Waves Twitter.

“The team and staff are a pleasure to be around, honestly we’re a big family so we all work really hard for each other. I think that’s only going to stand to us in the season ahead as well.”

“The league is going to be so competitive, as it always is,” she adds. “There’s never an easy game in the league, you know you’ve got to be on top form every single game.

“You’re coming up against great quality players week in, week out and the standard is improving each year as well. There’s a lot of young talents coming through each year, which is great to see as well.”

Speaking of things which are great to see, the string of developments made through the off-season have been hailed across the country, the league’s 11th season a certain landmark one.

SSE Airtricity have stepped up as sponsors, alongside the men’s equivalent, following notable struggles in that department over the past few years. For the first time ever, all games are streamed live, and for free, on LOI TV — a move which was met with much acclaim online, with promotion through the roof.

An U19 tier has been added to bridge the gap from U17 to senior, while prize money has been bumped by 141%. Everything is on the up in terms of off-field matters, matching the strides which have been made on the pitch in recent years as the league grows. 

“It’s huge,” Burdis nods. “We’re all so thankful for it, especially the 19s league, I think, is great to have.

“It’s a huge step up from U17s to senior women’s and I think a lot of players get lost in that, where they’re not actually ready for the step up to the first team but they’re ready for 19s. If they’re just there for another year or so before making seniors. We kind of lose a lot of good players I think over previous years so it’s great to have a 19s league now and first-team players are allowed to drop down if they’re not getting game time as well, obviously if you’re the right age.

“It’s a huge step up as well with the games being shown on LOI TV, especially with the games behind closed doors because of obvious reasons. It’s great as well for players to be getting scouted across the waters, being able to be watched week in, week out.

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“It’s up to us now to show our potential on the pitch and hopefully it will just keep going in the right direction. Teams are now playing in stadiums as well. We’re playing in the Bowl, Shels are playing in Tolka, Cork announced they’re playing in Turner’s Cross, which is another great step as well — they’re all steps in the right direction.”

And while Burdis is out injured at the minute, she hopes to play a key role for DLR this season as they target a higher finish than last time out, hoping to shake things up in the top-flight.

The former Irish underage international stays coy on her ambitions for the season ahead, with enjoying her football and playing with a smile on her face always the big one given her journey so far.

“My main focus now is getting back playing. I’m unfortunately going to miss the game against Wexford but the girls have worked really hard, so I’m sure they’re gonna put in a great shift.

“Personally I have a few goals for the season, I probably won’t say them incase I jinx them. I definitely want to bring in a few goals to my game and just continue to learn and improve each week.

“As a team, our aim is to make top-four. We came sixth last year, which we didn’t think was a great season for us. We really just want to try compete with the top teams and try get results against them and hopefully make top four.

“Everyone’s dream is to get into that Ireland women’s team so hopefully that comes with enjoying football and doing well for DLR.”

WNL Series 2 Fixtures

Saturday, 3 April

  • Cork City v Shelbourne, 2pm
  • Galway WFC v Bohemians, 2pm
  • DLR Waves v Wexford Youths, 6pm
  • Athlone Town v Treaty United, 7pm

- All live on LOI TV.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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