Enniskerry FC – The History of the Girls’ Section

Enniskerry FC has been catering for the soccer requirements of both schoolboys and schoolgirls in the greater Enniskerry area and beyond for over 40 years.

Girls always played for the club, including current Republic of Ireland star, Aine O’Gorman.

Season 2004/2005 – 15 girls playing (also 165 boys).

November 2005 – Enniskerry FC decides to promote the club to girls in the village, with the aim of having a “girls-only‟ football team. Halfway through that season, with about a dozen girls scattered across our six ‘under 8’ teams, the monumental decision was taken to pull all the under 8 girls together and enter an all-girls team in the weakest under 8 division of the Wicklow & District Schoolboys/girls League (WDSL). Whilst the club committee, in particular Andreas Traem who had seen the development of the girls’ game in Germany, and many parents at the time were keen to start all-girls’ football at the club, there were also many sceptics.

January 2006 – Enniskerry FC enters its first all-girls‟ football team – an under 8 team – into the Wicklow & District Schoolboys/Girls League (WDSL). It is the only “all-girls” team in the overall WDSL league. Training sessions were organised for the group by ex-League of Ireland stalwart Paul Cullen, and it was in late January 2006 that the girls had the excitement of playing their first match – a league match against a (boys) team from Wicklow Town. History was made – not only was the game played, Enniskerry girls won!

March 2006 – “all-girls‟ U10 team is formed at the club, led by long-time innovator at the club John Molloy. Both the under 8 and the under 10 teams played in the WDSL in the 2006/07 season, achieving some admirable wins against more fancied (boys) teams.

September 2006 – 3 all-girl teams entered into the WDSL. Again, they are the only “all-girl‟ teams in the overall WDSL League.

Winter-season 2006/2007 – all Enniskerry FC “all-girl‟ teams by now have won matches: all against teams with no girls in them. It was in February 2007, that the club took another giant leap in girls’ football, when it organised its first ‘Belles in the Meadow’ tournament. Taking place on a Saturday afternoon in March, we invited clubs from North Wicklow and South Dublin to come and play in a tournament for under 8s, under 10s and under 12s. We were hugely proud at the time to have a total of 23 teams take part, little knowing of the huge growth and success of this tournament in later years.

April 2007 – numbers grow; 4 teams entered in the “girls only” Summer based Dublin Women’s Soccer League.

August 2007 – After a successful campaign by all our sides in that Summer League, Enniskerry FC was of the view that whilst it made sense for our girls to play in all-girls football, Summer soccer simply didn’t really suit the majority, with Summer holidays causing major disruption to player availability. So Enniskerry FC, driven by Jonathan Bennett, called a meeting of all the clubs it had come across throughout the Summer of 2007 and the formative steps were taken to the commencement of an all-girls Winter League, to tie in with the school calendar, in the greater Dublin area. Following the appointment of committee members from various clubs, it was decided by this committee to bring the new Winter League under the auspices of the DWSL.

The whole thrust of the DWSL underage Winter league was participation, with the idea that any schoolgirl who wished to play soccer could be accommodated, irrespective of playing ability and experience. Divisions were run on both a ‘competitive’ and ‘development’ basis at the Under 17, Under 15, Under 13, Under 11 and Under 9 age groups. The beauty of the ‘development’ divisions in the League was that girls could learn and develop their game in an environment where results and league tables were not published. In that very first Winter season, 40 teams played – within four years, this number had doubled to 80 teams.

At the end of season 2010/11, again Enniskerry FC played a key role in merging the DWSL underage league with the much smaller NDSL underage girls’ league to form the Dublin Metropolitan (Metro) League. Now, girls’ football in the greater Dublin region had the infrastructure and support to drive and promote girls’ football onto the next level.

April 2011: Enniskerry FC’s Jonathan Bennett makes presentation on Club’s promotion of girls in the game to national/international representatives from UEFA, FAI, Estonia, Iceland and Belarus.

Also in the Summer of 2011, Enniskerry FC decided to launch their first senior womens’ football team, inviting back many ex-players to return to the club of their youth. This has been another tremendous success, with the club not only entering a team in the DWSL winter league for 2011/12, but also entering a team in the DWSL Summer League for 2012. It was now possible for a girl to play football at Enniskerry FC at any age – as some were heard to say – from ages 6 to 60!

Belles in the Meadow had now become an annual event – with the 2012 competition in April attracting 600 girls from 60 teams in what was now a full 2-day event covering the under 15, under 13, under 11 and under 9 age groups – again having separate ‘competitions’ at each group : one for the stronger competitive players and another for those developing their skills. Great support in developing this marvellous sporting weekend came from the likes of Aine O’Gorman and Katie Taylor, who were regular visitors every year and who the girls (and many parents!) loved to see. Aine and Katie would present cups to the various competition winners and medals to all the participants. The FAI have been tremendous in their support of the event too – with Noel King, Emma Martin, Paul Keogh and Rory O’Hare being regular attendees.

Season 2011/12 was in general another successful season for Enniskerry FC – with female registrations at the club coming close to 160, including the womens’ senior squad. Not only were all standards catered for – we were now beginning to compete extremely successfully at various age-groups.

Our under 11 competitive team in particular, under the coaching of Karl Brauner and Lingard Cahill and known as the ‘Enniskerry Lions’, won the ‘Metro League’ league and cup double, with the star of the team being Alannah McEvoy, granddaughter of Blackburn Rovers and Republic of Ireland legend Andy McEvoy. Alannah not only scored over 70 goals in matches for the team over the season, she also netted all three goals in the Metro Leagues narrow 4-3 defeat against Arsenal under 12s in June. She is certainly a player who could well match the achievements of Aine O’Gorman in the years ahead.

 

Whilst schoolgirls had always regularly played with the club (including for many years current Republic of Ireland star, Aine O’Gorman), it was at the back end of season 2005/06, not even seven short years ago, that we introduced our first “girls only” football teams.

Halfway through that season, with about a dozen girls scattered across our six ‘under 8’ teams, the monumental decision was made to pull all the under 8 girls together and enter an all-girls team in the weakest under 8 division of the Wicklow & District Schoolboys/girls League (WDSL). Whilst the club committee, in particular Andreas Traem who had seen the development of the girls’ game in Germany, and many parents at the time were keen to start all-girls’ football at the club, there were also many skeptics.

Training sessions were organised for the group immediately after Christmas by ex-League of Ireland stalwart Paul Cullen, and it was in late January 2006 that the girls had the excitement of playing their first match – a league match against a (boys) team from Wicklow Town. History was made – not only was the game played, Enniskerry girls won !

Later on in this 2005/06 season, we also introduced a team at the Under 10 age group, led by long-time innovator at the club John Molloy. Both these teams played in the WDSL in the 2006/07 season, achieving some admirable wins against more fancied (boys) teams.

It was in March 2007, that the club took another giant leap in girls’ football, when it organised its first ‘Belles in the Meadow’ tournament. Taking place on a Saturday afternoon, we invited clubs from South Dublin to come and play in a tournament for under 8s, under 10s and under 12s. We were hugely proud at the time to have a total of 23 teams take part, little knowing of the huge growth and success of this tournament in later years.

Despite having had a long Winter season, the success of Belles 2007 whetted the appetite of everyone at the club involved in girls’ football and we decided to enter four teams into the Summer “girls only” Dublin Women’s Soccer League (DWSL), whose season at the time was largely Summer based.

After a successful campaign by all our sides in that Summer League, Enniskerry FC was of the view that whilst it made sense for our girls to play in all-girls football, Summer soccer simply didn’t really suit the majority, with Summer holidays causing major disruption to player availability. So Enniskerry FC, driven by Jonathan Bennett, called a meeting of all the clubs it had come across throughout the Summer of 2007 and the formative steps were taken to the commencement of an all-girls Winter League, to tie in with the school calendar, in the greater Dublin area. Following the appointment of committee members from various clubs, the new Winter League came under the auspices of the DWSL.

The whole thrust of the DWSL underage Winter league was participation, with the idea that any schoolgirl who wished to play soccer could be accommodated, irrespective of playing ability and experience. Divisions were run on both a ‘competitive’ and ‘development’ basis at the Under 17, Under 15, Under 13, Under 11 and Under 9 age groups. The beauty of the ‘development’ divisions in the League was that girls could learn and develop their game in an environment where results and league tables were not published. In that very first Winter season, 40 teams played – within four years, this number had doubled to 80 teams.

Within this environment, Enniskerry FC’s girls’ section flourished. Numbers grew significantly where by in season 2010/2011, there were 140 girls registered with the club, from 4 to 16 years of age. A key part of the club was now the ‘club academy’ where girls and boys from the ages of 4 to 6 learned the basics of the game and teamwork skills in a safe and fun environment. For the older 7 to 12 year olds, we were now able to have two teams at each age group – this meant up to under 13 level having at each age group both a ‘competitive’ team and a ‘development’ team, where any player could find a place in a squad where they could comfortably ‘fit-in’ and enjoy their football.

At the end of season 2010/11, again Enniskerry FC played a key role in merging the DWSL underage league with the much smaller NDSL underage girls’ league to form the Dublin Metropolitan (Metro) League. Now, girls’ football in the greater Dublin region had the infrastructure and support to drive and promote girls’ football onto the next level.

Also in the Summer of 2011, Enniskerry FC decided to launch their first senior womens’ football team, inviting back many ex-players to return to the club of their youth. This has been another tremendous success, with the club not only entering a team in the DWSL winter league for 2011/12, but also entering a team in the DWSL Summer League for 2012. It was now possible for a girl to play football at Enniskerry FC at any age – as some were heard to say – from ages 6 to 60 !!

Belles in the Meadow had now become an annual event – with the 2012 competition in April attracting 600 girls from 60 teams in what was now a full 2-day event covering the under 15, under 13, under 11 and under 9 age groups – again having separate ‘competitions’ at each group : one for the stronger competitive players and another for those developing their skills. Great support in developing this marvellous sporting weekend came from the likes of Aine O’Gorman and Katie Taylor, who were regular visitors every year and who the girls (and many parents) loved to see. Aine and Katie would present cups to the various competition winners and medals to all the participants. The FAI have been tremendous in their support of the event too – with Noel King, Emma Martin, Paul Keogh and Rory O’Hare being regular attendees.

Season 2011/12 was in general another successful season for Enniskerry FC – with female registrations at the club coming close to 160, including the womens’ senior squad. Not only were all standards catered for – we were now beginning to compete extremely successfully at various age-groups.

Our under 11 competitive team in particular, under the coaching of Karl Brauner and Lingard Cahill and known as the ‘Enniskerry Lions’, won the ‘Metro League’ league and cup double, with the star of the team being Alannah McEvoy, granddaughter of Blackburn Rovers and Republic of Ireland legend Andy McEvoy. Alannah not only scored over 70 goals in matches for the team over the season, she also netted all three goals in the Metro Leagues narrow 4-3 defeat against Arsenal under 12s in June. She is certainly a player who could well match the achievements of Aine O’Gorman in the years ahead.

What does the future hold for all the Enniskerry ladies ? Well certainly football for all, with the continued key attribute being participation for girls of all standards and abilities. Within that basic objective, it is hoped that our more competitive girls can continue to flourish and develop, with facilities improving the whole time and the club playing a significant role in the overall wider community of Enniskerry and its environs.