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Dublin: 21°C Sunday 13 June 2021

'I really do understand the definition of experience since I've played with Granty. She's a great player to have'

Shelbourne star Izzy Atkinson on the addition of Donegal ace Ciara Grant ahead of tomorrow’s league title decider.

Donegal and Shelbourne star Ciara Grant,
Donegal and Shelbourne star Ciara Grant,
Image: Inpho/Shelbourne FC.

SHELBOURNE TEENAGER IZZY Atkinson has hailed her side’s outstanding mixture of youth and experience, and confidence in the camp, ahead of their Women’s National League [WNL] title decider against reigning champions Peamount United.

One player in particular to come in for huge praise from the 19-year-old was Donegal native Ciara Grant, who has added so much to the set-up since signing earlier this year.

Star midfielder Grant returned to the league in January after a spell playing for Sion Swifts in the Northern Irish Women’s Premier Division. A 12-time Irish international, Grant has also excelled for the Donegal ladies footballers, winning an Ulster title with them in 2018.

Her experience from both codes, and in the WNL in particular where she won title with Raheny in 2013 and 2014 pre-their amalgamation with Shels, has come as a huge boost this year, starring around the middle with captain and fellow stalwart Pearl Slattery.

Meanwhile, Atkinson is one of many rising talents in the fold alongside the likes of Jessica Ziu, Jess Gargan, Rebecca Cooke and Emily Whelan,

“Shels has always been a younger team,” 19-year-old Atkinson tells The42 ahead of tomorrow night’s showdown at Greenogue [KO 6pm, live on FAI TV].

“We have one of the younger average of ages. This year the likes of Rebecca Cooke and Emily Whelan, they’re all 18 now so they’re all actually adults, whereas last year and the year before, they’d be 17 going on 18. Like I said, they’ve matured.

Then Granty’s only came this year and I honestly am not just saying this, but she is one of the most experienced players… I always say, ‘Ah, you can be experienced at any age.’ But I really do understand the definition of experience since I’ve played with Granty.

“If you’re playing a team and they’ve asked a question, you’d know that she’s gonna be the one to answer. Even in training, I’d say she says one or two little things to me every single training and I haven’t had people talk to me with little things like that in ages, like in years.

“She just says little things and I’m like, ‘I didn’t even think that I could get better and little things like that.’ But she notices little things. I think she’s 26 or 27, she’s not actually that old but she’s just so experienced. She’s just a great player to have and I really, really love playing with her his year.”

shels Shelbourne celebrate scoring a goal. Source: Shelbourne FC.

27-year-old doctor Grant has added an awful lot to the set-up, Atkinson says, as they look to go one better this year after finishing second to Peas last time out. Her wealth of experience and persona on and off the pitch is a huge asset, as is her Gaelic football outlook at times.

“She just has a very strong mentality. She’s very confident as a person, which I think brings on to the pitch as well. And then obviously, she’s a great communicator with all the girls.

“That was a problem with us. Some people would be, not shy to speak, but some people wouldn’t speak up. Whereas this year, I just think that we’re just that bit older and more mature, we’re all just growing up and getting braver. I don’t know how to explain it but we’re just getting more comfortable.

When I was with Shels the first year, I wouldn’t have opened my mouth when I was 16. I just feel like I’ve just developed and grown and I don’t think I would have done that without the girls, and having everyone by my side. I’m just happy with everything at the moment and I think we’re flying now as a team on and off the pitch.”

That they certainly are, having made two serious statements of intent coming into this one off he back of 4-0 and 5-0 wins over Cork City and Galway respectively.

The win over the Westerners, in particular, was a stern marker laid down, Atkinson agrees. “I don’t know if this is 100% true, but I think one of the Galway staff said that they haven’t been bet that much in her whole career. I think that says a lot then.

“Also actually on our side, we had a problem at the very start of the year with taking our chances and actually scoring. We’d have five times the chances that we’d actually have scored whereas in the past few games for some reason, we’ve actually been scoring all of our chances which we haven’t been doing.

“Maybe it’s because we started to do a lot of shooting in training the past month or so. That’s something we had a problem with against Peamount the last two or three seasons, we didn’t take our chances whereas they did and that’s obviously the difference in a top team.

izzy Atkinson on the ball for Shelbourne. Source: Shelbourne FC/SPORTSFILE.

“You have to take your chances. I’m glad that we’ve been doing that now so hopefully it stays going on Saturday.”

Atkinson, who’s made the switch from winger to full-back this year and is thriving in her new position has been getting in on the scoring act, and she’ll hope that can continue this weekend at Greenogue.

It’s winner takes all. If Shelbourne win their last game of the season, the title is theirs for the first time singe 2016. Peamount, on the other hand, can seal the silverware with a victory or bring it to their final outing of the season against Wexford Youths with a draw.

But it’s in Shels’ hands, and that’s something that pleases Atkinson.

“That’s why I think, personally, in my head, I think it’s a bit of an advantage for us because we only have to worry about one game, 90 minutes. It’s my fourth season at Shels now and I think this is the most team [environment] I felt with all the girls.

“I think maybe the younger girls have matured that bit that we’re more used to the older girls, and we’re all just getting that bit older. I think that’s what’s best about this year, we really are a team.

“We’re all just gonna go out on the line, 90 minutes on Saturday and hopefully we just do what we’ve been doing all year and it goes to plan.”

- An in-depth feature with Izzy Atkinson will follow tomorrow morning.

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Emma Duffy

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