Shelbourne's Rebecca Creagh. Maurice Frazer
Happy returns

'I had a lot of apprehension going in. I was wondering if I’d still be able to compete at this level'

Rebecca Creagh has been leading the line for league leaders Shelbourne, but her return to the squad this year filled her with doubt.

REBECCA CREAGH STOOD on the sideline waiting for her third spell with Shelbourne to begin.

Her first assignment of the new Women’s National League season was a substitute appearance against Kilkenny United – a game which was put to bed by the end of the first half.

Goals from Alannah McEvoy and Jessica Gargan, as well as Jessica Ziu’s double meant the home side were 4-0 up at the break.

By the time she entered the fold, the 29-year-old knew she would have a job trying to impress the management team.

“I had it in my head the personal goals that I had set for myself – how many touches of the ball I want to get or how many goals,” she tells The42.

“Once I completed that side of it and got over the mental hurdle I knew I’d be able to do something for the team.”

For both Creagh and the team, their opening game of the season could not have gone any better and the fact that Shels were 8-1 up by the time the Dubliner entered the fold made no difference to her approach to the game.

Emily Whelan provided the cross as Creagh headed home to stretch the visitors’ lead.

10-1 it finished.

“I just end up in the right place most of the time. The girls in the squad have made the majority of this possible for me. They pushed me through preseason when you can imagine at the very beginning it was very tough.

But after the start we’ve had, I’m feeling good and fit again, which is something that’s huge to me because I know I’m not the youngest of players.”

The reintroduction to life in Irish domestic football has, on the surface anyway, been a pleasant one.

Her return from Australia last year meant she witnessed Wexford Youths’ treble-winning 2018 season.

“That was a huge motivation after watching the FAI Cup final last year and watching them win the league.

I remember watching it thinking: ‘I want to get back to that.’”

Unsurprising when you consider that she was the first woman to lift the FAI Cup when she was with Raheny United in 2013. The drive to be the best was always there.

creagh Rebecca Creagh is enjoying life back in the WNL.


The transition back to league football was always going to be daunting. Creagh decided to take time away from the game in the first place due to a recurring foot injury.

Creagh cracked the fifth metatarsal in her right foot in a match against Cork in September 2016 – signalling the start of a spell marred by injury.

Three months with her foot in a boot meant she was sidelined for Shelbourne’s 5-0 FAI Cup final victory over Wexford.

The injury reoccurred in December of that year, ruling her out until the following spring and effectively ending her season.

After signing back for Shels in March, she admits there were times that she had doubted her own abilities.

I had a lot of apprehension going into the season. I was wondering if I’d still be able to do it and compete at this level, to still be able to do well.

“There was a lot of doubt. Heading into pre-season being fit was crucial to me, as well as being able to stay fit.

“Once I got the first goal against Kilkenny, that was the moment of realisation for me. I thought to myself: ‘Right, I can do this.’

My confidence has been boosted hugely because of the start I’ve had. And, listen, I don’t think I’d be able to do it without the players around me.

“The younger players in the squad keep you on your toes and push you to perform. Getting those goals in the opening few games have been a huge confidence boost.

“I’m not really focusing on myself and my performances. It’s more about those team performances.

“We have players there who can get us goals and I’ve been able to take the pressure off myself.”

CREAGH2 Creagh in action against DLR Waves.

From her first outing, the season got better and better.

Shels romped to a 5-0 victory over Limerick in their second game of the new term to keep them top of the table, with Creagh bagging a 24-minute second-half hat-trick.

Another goal against DLR Waves leaves her joint-top of the scoring charts after three games and the Dublin side top of the WNL with nine points from nine.

A lot of people I’m sure would have looked at those first three games [with cynicism]. I know they’re not the top tier – but it doesn’t make a difference to our performances.

“Over the last three weeks or so we’ve put in some great performances and the results have shown that. Our next three games are going to test us that little bit more.

“I’d like to think that we might have the edge going into them – other teams looking at us and seeing a +19 goal difference.

Our approach this year has been top class. The first half in some games we didn’t apply ourselves the way we would have hoped.

“But our attitude has shone through in the second half – of the last two games especially – and we got the result in the end.

We prepare for Kilkenny the same way we get ready for Peamount or Wexford.”

The patience that has been so evident in Creagh’s return to Irish football has been a telling characteristic in Shelbourne’s results this season.

“Once we get the first goal, we know that more will come. That’s been the key for us in preseason and throughout the course of the season so far – that patience.

“We know that once we keep probing and working the ball around we can find those openings.

We’ve integrated this way of playing football over the course of preseason, that we’re trying to play a brand of total football.

“Keep probing the defence, keep a high line and if we do that the goals will come eventually.

“We’ve kept at that. We haven’t let the heads drop at half-time. Sometimes we’ll get a talking to that’s needed and then gone out in the second half and scored.”

As for the foot, Creagh insists the initial signs are good.

No issues so far. I’ve had a little niggle here and there and a bit of muscle soreness but I think that’s only natural after two years out of playing.

“It’s doing well and I’m feeling strong. Hopefully that keeps going.”

Next up for Shels is the visit of Galway United to Tolka Park before the trip to Peamount United on 20 April.

They then travel to Cork City before they host champions Wexford.

“When I was with Raheny and when I also had success here with Shels, we’d maintained a good streak. Over the course of the last eight or so years we were the team that everyone wanted to knock off their perch.

“In the last few years that’s sort of fallen onto Wexford’s shoulders.

“I know personally watching from the sidelines I felt we had to get back to winning ways.

“We’ve a good backbone that have come from Raheny, the likes of Pearl [Slattery], Noelle [Murray], Jamie [Finn] and Amanda [Quinlan] as well.

“We have seen the dominance that Wexford have had this year.

Like myself, some of those girls are 30 this year and we don’t want to end our career or what’s left of them losing.

“We want to go back to being successful. The younger girls need to taste that as well.

“Shels as a club deserve that as well.”

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