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'It's not just about football. We try to create that family atmosphere where the team can rely on each other'

James O’Callaghan’s league champions Peamount are eyeing the double with the FAI Cup final on Sunday.

THE EUPHORIC SCENES as Peamount United captain Áine O’Gorman lifted the Women’s National League trophy under Saturday Night Lights said it all.

aine-ogorman-celebrates-with-the-trophy-after-the-game A picture paints a thousand words: O'Gorman after lifting the trophy. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

A recently-retired international who has achieved so much on the biggest stages in the world, the emotion shown by the Irish centurion captured just how much this meant to the south Dublin club. 

After all the heartbreak and near misses, after knocking on the door for so long and coming so agonisingly close, Peamount were finally crowned champions for the first time since the league’s inaugural season in 2011/12.

And deseredly so, after taking an impressive 56 points from the 63 on offer, despite Shelbourne mounting a considerable challenge and bringing the title race right down to the wire.

They’re far from done for the year, however. The Women’s FAI Cup final is on the line at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, with holders Wexford Youths in their way. While it’s a repeat of last year’s Lansdowne Road showdown which Wexford won 1-0 en route to sealing the treble, Peamount are definitely the side coming in on a high 12 months later. 

“The girls are delighted after winning the league,” Peas manager James O’Callaghan smiles in conversation with The42 yesterday.

“They’re a long time at it now, trying to get that win. They’ve been really consistent all year and worked really hard so we’re delighted. 

You could see the joy in the faces of the girls in the photos. The intensity of it all, we were just so relieved really because it went to the last match of the season. We only lost one game all season, and drew two so we were really delighted to get there in the end.

“If we didn’t win it this year, I was in trouble,” O’Callaghan, in his third year in charge, adds with a laugh. 

While there’s more silverware up for grabs at the national stadium on Sunday, the Dubliner was keen for his side to celebrate last Saturday night, and reap the rewards of their memorable 2019 league season before switching their focus to the next job at hand. 

“In fairness to the girls, it’s been a long time since Peamount won the league so last Saturday I made sure that they went out and enjoyed themselves,” he explains.

“Not too much now, but it’s important to acknowledge it, to let themselves relax and enjoy themselves. But straight away they were back in Tuesday night and ready to go again.”

They’ve definitely refocused down since reconvening earlier this week, with dethroning Wexford the one thing in their sights as of now.

james-ocallaghan Peamount United manager O'Callaghan. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We’re delighted to get to the cup, it’s going to be a great day out,” O’Callaghan continues. “It’s great for everybody in Peamount, all the volunteers and committee members.

It’s going to be a really tough game against Wexford. It’s great to get to the Aviva, but it’s not a great place to be if you don’t get the result you want. We’re just knuckling down, training hard this week and hoping to put in a good performance.

“Wexford are a top, top side. They have great experience in their team. They probably haven’t been as consistent in the league this year as they would have liked. In saying that, they’ve still got into the final of the league cup and the final at the Aviva.

“It’s going to be a really tough game.”

While it was many of his young squad’s first experience of playing on Ireland’s biggest stage last year, the former Monaghan United defender is confident that that big-match experience will stand to them 12 months on. 

“We have a lot of young players in the squad and I think last year, everybody was just happy to get there,” he says.

“We’re hoping that the experience of last year, the experience of this season and the momentum that we’re building at the moment is going to stand to us on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of young players in the Peamount team. People probably think more about the senior players the likes of Karen [Duggan] and Áine [O'Gorman], but a lot of girls have come through the Peamount schoolgirls’ system.

About 70 per cent of the squad have come through it. I think this year they’ve really stepped up another level and been more consistent.

That mixture of youth and experience has been a revelation, but one thing that really strikes you about Peamount is the tight-knit bond at the club. 

Young and old, Ireland internationals and rising club players, everyone is treated the same. Players, coaches, volunteers and fans alike, they’re all the one. 

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james-ocallaghan-and-tom-elmes O'Callaghan with Wexford Youths manager Tom Elmes at yesterday's media day. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“We do try to create a family atmosphere in the team,” O’Callaghan nods.

“A lot of stuff has happened this season in terms of family members of players passing away, some people have personal issues going on as well.

We’ve tried to create that family atmosphere where the team can rely on each other and help each other out. It’s not just about football, the whole personal development of players is important to us as well.

With that positive personal development comes enjoyment, and with enjoyment comes success. Peamount definitely seem to have found the right formula, that’s for sure. 

But they’re definitely not resting on their laurels. The double is on, and let’s be real, tasting success brings hunger for even more.

So lastly, just how great would it be to do the business again on Sunday?

“We’re delighted to win the league,” O’Callaghan concludes. “It’s great for the club and for everybody involved. We’re all going to try and enjoy Sunday.

As I said, it’s not a great place to go to if you don’t get the win. We’re going to be doing our best to change that this week.

Peamount United face Wexford Youths in the So Hotels Women’s FAI Cup final on Sunday. Kick-off is 12.05pm [live on RTÉ Two].

***

It’s Rugby World Cup final week! On the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Murray Kinsella joins Gavan Casey and Sean Farrell to preview Saturday’s showdown between England and South Africa.


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Emma Duffy

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