The newly-appointed Sligo Rovers Women’s Under 17 head coach Danny O’Leary says he cannot wait to get the season up and running, after the first game was postponed this weekend.
The outbreak of Covid-19 delayed the season, and the late start meant that Martin McManus was unable to continue working with the girls.
Experienced coach O’Leary, who had a lengthy League of Ireland career as a player, has also enjoyed a spell as Head of Youth Development with Rovers along with coaching the U-17 boys with Colm Jinks and has been involved in coaching for years.
O’Leary has also coached Mayo senior side Manulla and the Mayo League Oscar Traynor team for a brief period.
O’Leary told sligorovers.com: “I took this role because I want to get back coaching elite level players. The club made contact and it appealed to me straight away because they are elite level players. They’re a very good group of players, so it was something I wanted to get involved in. ”
O’Leary stresses that he sees this group as a squad of elite footballers, and they will continue to be treated as such.
“Football is football. The girls and boys are separated just by gender. The game of football is exactly the same. For me, it’s no different as in the coaching side of football is no different whether it’s elite level boys or elite level girls.
“It’s just they’re a different group and they have different needs at different times, no more than the boys will have different needs in where they want to go in football and education.”
In terms of his goals and objectives for the year, O’Leary is keen to help develop his players and prepare them for senior football.
Winning isn’t his priority, but it would be nice: “I said to the girls when I first came in, results are not important to me really. Obviously it’s important that girls know how to win and how to lose games, how to play against opposition. Winning isn’t the be all and the end all.
“My personal objective is to get them ready to play senior football in this country. For the girls in the group, we want to make sure that when these girls advance from the U-17s that they are ready to play senior football in this country.
“Hopefully if we do get a senior football team up and running soon so that we can hang on to players. In the meantime if they’re going to Athlone or someone like that, they might come back to us because they enjoyed it, and they were coached right.
“So when we do have a senior team, these girls will be well able. Hopefully we will win games but winning the competitions (is not a priority), if it happens it happens.”
He has been impressed with the talent within the squad since he took over and is hopeful that he can give his players the right guidance.
“They’re all very talented, we’ve got a serious group of players. We’ve got 17 and I know there’s a lot of girls coming through from Sligo Leitrim who are excellent as well.
“The talent is there definitely and I think they might just need a little bit of guidance here and there to get them that extra step to make sure they’re playing international football for that little bit longer or playing senior football which gives them a chance further down the line of getting a call up.”
O’Leary took charge of his side for a friendly against the emerging talent U15s last week. Peamount were due to travel this weekend, but the game was called off as they have some players from counties in lockdown.
“We played our first friendly there last week against the Sligo/Leitrim team. It was good to see girls in positions and see what they’re capable of in units, defenders together and midfielders together because there’s only so much you can do in training to work on that.
“The girls are raring to go and I’m raring to go and I can’t wait to see them on the pitch when we do have a game. They’re such a talented group and such a great group to work with. They’re very receptive to any new ideas I’m throwing at them because I am going to challenge them.
“They’ve got to be challenged if they want to play senior football. I’m going to challenge them throughout the season. ”