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Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021

'At the end of the day, it's only trying to get a ball between two posts... but it's more than that'

Galway WFC captain Keara Cormican on a big 2020 season, her own football journey and teaching through the Covid-19 crisis.

INTO THE WEST, where a sleeping giant is well and truly awakening.

The time is now for Galway Women’s Football Club, as they look to shake things up in the Women’s National League. While many are tipping reigning champions Peamount United along with ever-present Shelbourne and Wexford Youths for silverware this season, something special is rising in the west.

And their straight-talking captain Keara Cormican embodies the revival.

keara-cormican Galway WFC captain Keara Cormican. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With an air of quiet confidence at the club after pushing the so-called top three all the way last season, 2020 could be the year for Galway’s significant breakthrough.

“Billy has always said to us that we could beat any team in the league and it’s only in the last year or two that we really believe it,” Cormican tells The42, referring to manager Billy Clery, who took the reins in 2017.

“We push all the top teams and we know ourselves it was maybe last-minute goals or just unlucky things that we let the points slip.

We do believe that we can beat any team. It’s important to for us to be confident but not cocky in any sense going into any game.

“At the end of the day, it’s 90 minutes and it’s 11 v 11 so we need to realise again that anything could happen against us or for us in a game. You just want to get maximum points out of every game that you can.”

With every word she utters, you understand why 25-year-old defender Cormcian wears the captain’s armband in a team littered with so much talent and so many potential leaders. Having taken over the role from Irish international Méabh de Búrca last season, she’s a pillar of the Westerners side alongside her formidable central defensive partner in Shauna Fox.

Cormican praises the “huge impact” Cork duo Amanda Budden and Savannah McCarthy have had since joining, and the welcome blend of youth and new blood coming through from U17 level with Shauna Brennan and Therese Kinneavy both starting in their opening 1-1 draw with DLR Waves at Eamon Deacy Park last weekend.

It’s all about pushing on now, though.

“The team is really looking up and there’s serious competition in training for places in matches,” she adds, with another nod to Aislinn Meaney and Lucia Lobata who both had to return from their American scholarships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The younger girls are getting experience. Seeing the likes of Méabh de Búrca — who has numerous, numerous Irish caps — and playing and training with her is serious experience for the girls, just to learn from her.”

meabh-de-burca De Búrca on the ball for Ireland in 2016. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Looking back to her own younger years, Cormican — who’s often mistakenly noted as related to Galway Gaelic games dual star namesake Caitriona, she’s certainly not — played the big three sports for young girls on these shores.

Gaelic football, camogie, and soccer.

The middle code was one she couldn’t not play, given where she comes from.

“I’m from south Galway so it’s a strong hurling club around here,” Cormican, who works as a science teacher, explains. “I played camogie, and Gaelic football as well. Then we had a very good underage soccer team with my local club here, Colga.

“We went on to U14, U16, we won the All-Ireland and that with the club so I just kind of stuck with that then and got called in for trials to Galway.

“You just kind of have to decide: are you going to keep up the camogie and football, or are going to stick and take soccer fully serious? I kind of gave up the other two, I suppose it was tough.

It’s not like GAA where you can play your club and play your county. I couldn’t play with Colga any more then when I moved to Galway. The camogie girls that you’ve grown up with and gone to school with, they’re there nearly every minute of your childhood and you’re kind of just leaving them and saying, ‘Oh, I’m going off to play soccer here in Galway.’

“It was tough but all the girls and the management of the camogie and football understood and they just wished me well. I hope in a few years now when I retire from soccer to go back to them.”

For now though, her entire focus is on football.

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And like it did for many others, the shutdown due to the pandemic gave Cormican a newfound appreciation for football. While it took a back seat in the grand scheme of things, it left a significant void in her life and she’s over the moon to have it back now.

“Absolutely,” she nods. “I suppose when you were off and not playing soccer during lockdown, focus was more so maybe on family, your home, your house kind of, and you nearly forgot about soccer.

“It wasn’t a priority during those times but then when you get back, it’s only then that you realise how much you appreciate and love it like. 

fai-womens-national-league-charity-partner-announcement Club captains at the 2020 WNL launch. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It is, at the end of the day, only outside kicking a ball trying to get it between two posts but it’s more than that — as in the social side of it, talking to people, out in the fresh air. For your mental health as well, it’s so good.”

Delighted to have it back in full swing, the countdown is now on for school to return.

Having been teaching in Seamount College, Kinvara, plenty has changed over the past few weeks for Cormican, her colleagues and students — like everyone else across the country.

With everything surrounding the return to education still up in the air, she is hoping to get back to some kind of normality, however that may look, by the end of the month.

“We got off school in the middle of March. Then it was only, ‘Oh, we’ll be off for two weeks, three weeks max and then we’ll be back in.’ Then it just kind of dragged on and dragged on.

We’re hoping to be back now in two weeks I think, the 31st. I can’t wait to get back, just back into routine. It was great to be back at soccer but still… I’m lucky that I live on a farm so I can work on that but you’d be getting bored of having nothing to do.

“Even motivation-wise, you really want to be doing something when you’re used to working a full week and then playing soccer, it’s always go go go so it was a bit of a change for me when lockdown came, especially with work.

“I’m really looking forward to going back, it is going to be different and there will be challenges but sure, all we can do is our best, to look out for the kids and everything.”

After last weekend’s opener against DLR Waves, Cormican and her Galway outfit will be hoping to bounce back and get three points on the board today against league newcomers Bohemians [KO 2pm]. 

They’re unquestionably targeting the top half of the league before the season splits for Phase Two in October. Strict on their standards, the disappointment shines through as Cormican discusses last weekend’s result — but it’s now on to the next one.

cormican Cormican at the 2020 WNL launch. Source: WNL.

“It’s better than nothing, the one point but at the end of the day, we feel that we had an awful lot more chances and that we should have maybe won the game,” she frowns.

“But I think in the end, it was a fair result. They came at us well in the second half and they could have easily took the game.

“We’re just looking forward to this weekend, getting back on the pitch. That’s the good thing now with soccer, there’s no big wait until your next match. We’re playing another Dublin team now this weekend, so hopefully we’ll get more than the one point again.”

And on their opposition, she concludes: “It was Bohs’ first match out so we must remember that, against Wexford who are obviously a very dominant team in the league. That was no easy task for them.

“We just need to go in heads on and expect the hardest game that we’ve ever played. That’s what you need to do, not take anything for granted as well.

“It is their first year in the league, but they have serious players in the team, in the panel, that have a lot of experience. We must remember that as well.”

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Emma Duffy

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