They had to wait a week longer than they might have wished, but Derry City’s ladies – with a Donegal dozen in their ranks clinched the NIWFA Championship title and a return to the Premiership last night.
A 4-0 win over Killen Rangers gave the Daniel Nolan-managed Candystripes their hour of glory. The title had been within touching distance, but a defeat at Portadown last week meant they had to keep the champagne on ice.
Last night, though, they finished the job as Rachel Barnaby’s hat-trick helped fire them to a big win. It was fitting that Caoimhe Logue was among the goals given the midfielder’s influence on and off the pitch this season.
Nolan, who has had spells coaching at Finn Harps and Cockhill Celtic in recent years, had referenced Logue in an interview recently when he said: “When I took the job I needed a player who was interested in taking a coaching role. Caoimhe has been fantastic. I couldn’t have done this without her help. She’s been great in terms of the organising side of things and she’s been involved in coaching too. She’s well respected in the group and she was the first person I looked to for an assistant.”
The Donegal connections runs right through the veins of this Derry City team. Niamh Connolly of Buncrana has been a mainstay for the last eight seasons and the midfielder knows they’re ready for a top-flight return, following the disappointment of relegation last season.
Connolly says: “We didn’t know what to expect last season in the Premiership, but we know now and we’ve strengthened the squad.
“This is definitely the strongest squad I’ve played at in Derry. We have subs now who come in and can make a massive difference. You don’t need 11. You need a squad and you have to keep building on that.”
While Connolly is in her eighth Derry campaign, the likes of Buncrana’s Ella McLaughlin, Clonmany’s Shania McGonigle, Lauren Cregan and Fiona Doherty, Greencastle woman Gemma McGuinness – who has netted 14 goals – and Ballyliffin’s Nicole Gordon are all at the end of the first seasons in the Candystripes.
Kerrykeel woman Caoimhe Walsh signed last summer and has reaped the rewards for the increased endeavours of the demands of playing at this level.
“It’s a lot of travel for a two-hour training session,” she says.
“Coming in to win the League now, it shows that it’s been worth it.
“It’s been a great season. Just one more win and we have it. The standard in here is very high. Playing National League is unreal. Even in the training, going from once a week to four times a week it’s a massive jump.”
Rachel McLaughin from Carndonagh, Aisling McDevitt from Kerrykeel, Eimear Callaghan of Fanad and Muff’s Jenna Doherty are the others from Donegal on the victorious Derry City squad.