Match Preview: Clash of Rovers’ Women on Saturday

There is another big weekend of action at The Showgrounds with the start of the 2023 new-look Women’s Premier Division (WPD), writes Conall Collier.

A new kick-off time of 5pm and a new team visiting from Dublin in the form of a Shamrock Rovers side that has returned to the League after withdrawing at the end of the 2013 / 2014 campaign.

Last season featured a 10-team League that was played on a three-round format, but this year with 11 teams now affiliated it’s more straightforward and more like the old format of the League of Ireland – a two-round series of 20 games to determine the destination of the title.

There will also be an extra competition with a new-style League Cup that will provide five games, between qualifying groups and knock-out phase, to be played from mid-June to mid-July.

Add in the first round of the FAI Cup at the end of August and that will produce a minimum 26-game season.

There is also the 2023 World Cup to factor-in as the Republic of Ireland and manager Vera Pauw head for Australia and New Zealand and the opening game on Thursday 20th July. There are no WPD fixtures scheduled from 17th July to 19th August.

The 2023 season officially kicked-off last Saturday with the inaugural President’s Cup and that tie attracted a crowd of 1,423 as hosts Athlone Town secured the first piece of silverware following a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Shelbourne after the sides shared four goals.

Next up is the opening game at the Showgrounds and that is certain to bring a big crowd at the new 5pm kick-off time as Sligo Rovers manager Steve Feeney looks to find some improvement on a satisfactory first season last year.

The Bit O’Red manager has recruited a number of new faces including sisters Jodie Loughrey and Keri Loughrey along with goalkeeper Bonnie McKiernan (Athlone Town), Seren Ward (Wexford Youths) and Casey Howe from Fermanagh

It will be a big weekend for Jodie and Kerri Loughrey as they will be heading to Gortakeegan in Monaghan on Monday as part of the Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana team for an All-Ireland FAI Schools Senior Girls National Cup final (Under 20, Large Schools).

The opposition will be provided by St Attracta’s Community School, Tubbercurry who will feature Sligo Rovers players Leah Walsh, Jessica Casey and Kerri O’Hara in the starting line-up.

Kerri O’Hara scored a vital goal for St Attracta’s in the semi-final win against St Mary’s, Midleton and she will be looking to build on a hugely impressive first season in the League of Ireland when she features for the Bit O’Red this year.

Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana negotiated Coláiste Phobal, Ros Cré with a 1-0 victory in the other semi-final with Jodie Loughrey on the mark.

That suggests that there is a major goal threat in the Sligo Rovers camp, especially when Emma Doherty is factored into the equation – she scored 11 goals in 2022 and was selected on the team of the season at the annual awards ceremony last January.

Experienced players like Lauren Boles, Emma Hansberry, Aoife Brennan, Orna O’Dowd, Helen Monaghan and Katie Melly will also have key roles to play as the season unfolds.

For the visiting Dubliners, an array of talented players moved to Tallaght Stadium.

Republic of Ireland international Áine O’Gorman will wear the captain’s armband after she was recruited from Peamount by manager Collie O’Neill.

Others to make the move include Stephanie Roche (Peamount), Amanda Budden (Shelbourne), Savannah McCarthy (Galway WFC), Jessica Hennessy (Athlone Town) and Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne) to name a few.


Women’s Premier Division – Sligo Rovers v Shamrock Rovers.

Date – Saturday 4th March

Kick-off – 5pm

Season Tickets have sold strongly, with access to every game for €50 for the season.

Under-12s will have free admission accompanied by a paying adult.

Over-12s will be charged €5.