Recently-appointed Kerry captain Aislinn Desmond speaks to Adam Moynihan about her goals for 2021, the proposed LGFA/GAA merger, and the future of the ladies' game
Hi Aislinn. Thanks for taking the time to speak to me. First things first: congratulations on being named Kerry captain. It must be a very proud moment for you.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a great honour to be selected as captain. It’s one of those accolades you dream about when you’re growing up, so it’s an absolute privilege to be representing the Kerry ladies as captain.
I’m sure, considering the experience you have, that you’re a leader in the dressing room already. In that regard, will the captaincy change much for you and your role within the camp?
I wouldn’t say my role will change too much to be honest. There are a lot of leaders in the team. Even though I am getting the official title now, I’d always try my best to be a leader on the pitch anyway.
Unfortunately we don’t really know when the season is going to start due to COVID. How has the latest lockdown been for you personally, and how challenging has it been for the team?
Yeah, it has been hard enough for everyone. I suppose we’re fortunate enough to be considered elite athletes so we get to train individually, and we got to play football last year. We’re privileged in that regard.
Did the pandemic make things difficult for you, both football-wise and personally with work etc., in 2020?
Work (JRI America) have been very obliging. We got to work from home immediately so there wasn’t any pressure from that side of things. Training-wise, we all got our individual programmes so we were kept going with that. Once we got back training collectively, the lads (Kerry managers Darragh Long and Declan Quill) were very good. They implemented all the COVID guidelines and made sure they were adhered to.
What have Darragh and Declan brought to the set-up since arriving at the start of last year?
They’ve implemented a good work ethic model and they’ve definitely brought unity back to the team. Everybody is playing for each other now, which is a great thing. Everyone has real respect for both Darragh and Declan. We want to win for them.
How would you sum up Kerry’s performances in 2020?
Well, we had a good league campaign. We were scheduled to be in a National League final but then COVID hit. In the championship, we got Cavan first and we won that, and then we were in with Cork. Unfortunately, we just fell short on the day.
And on a personal level?
It’s nice to be considered an elite athlete, which means you still get to go to the gym and you still get to train. But, overall, it was a hard year for everyone, myself included. You’d miss being around the team.
You were part of the Rathmore side that won the County Championship last year. How significant an achievement was that?
Yeah, that was unreal for the club. It was the first time ever that Rathmore had won it. We had been knocking on the door for a while – it was our third time being in a final. Thankfully, it was third time lucky. It’s one of those achievements that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
And I’m sure that having family involved made it even more special.
It was so lovely to see how happy dad (Denis, the team’s manager) was. And then having Caitriona (sister and teammate) there as well… We had no supporters (due to COVID), but it was nice to have some bit of family there on the day.
When the season does get up and running, what are the goals for 2021?
For Kerry, we have a clear vision on getting out of Division 2. We want to get up to Division 1 because that’s where the best teams are. In order to compete with the best, you have to play with the best. I feel like we should be able to get out of Division 2 this year and get up to Division 1.
Which teams are likely to be Kerry’s main rivals in the league?
I’d say Armagh, they had a really strong season last year and Aimee Mackin is back for them, and Meath, who are after coming up from Division 3. They have some fine players and they’re really strong physically. Division 2 is a tough one to get out of – we definitely won’t be taking it for granted. We know we’ll have our work cut out for us.
Are there any young Kerry players that we should keep an eye on in 2021?
There are some really good footballers coming through, players like Ava Doherty from Glenflesk, Danielle O’Leary from Rathmore and Anna Clifford from Fossa.
Taking a broader view of the sport as whole, what kind of shape do you think women's football is in right now?
I definitely think that there’s room for improvement. Hopefully the amalgamation of the GAA and the LGFA is underway; they’re definitely in talks at the moment to see if it’s something that can be implemented. I don’t think it will be done in my time playing football, but hopefully in the long-term this is something that will be completed. It would be for the good of the game.
In what ways do you believe an amalgamation would be beneficial?
I think it would eliminate some of the discrepancies that exist between men’s and ladies' football. There would definitely be more publicity, there would be more interest in the game, and I think it would be more professionally ran. It would be good for ladies' football to be under the same umbrella as the GAA.
The WGPA and the GPA merged towards the end of last year. A positive move as well?
The WGPA have done great work with the ladies' footballers and, in fairness, they’re always there for us. It’s excellent that they have merged with the GPA.
I suppose episodes like the Galway and Cork match last year highlight the fact that the men’s and women’s games are not on a level playing field.
Absolutely. By the sounds of things, Galway were hard done by. Finding out on the morning of a game that your venue has changed, and then they didn’t get much time on the pitch either for their warm-up. Supposedly they only got eight minutes. That’s a bit unfair. Factors like that do affect the game. And then the only reason the match was shown was because Valerie Mulcahy had it on her live feed on Instagram. Like, it’s an All-Ireland semi-final. I don’t think that would happen in the men’s. It was just unfortunate how it played out.
You made your debut with Kerry in 2009. Has people’s perception of ladies’ football, and women in sport in general, shifted over the past 12 years?
I think there has been a shift. Lidl came on board and sponsored the ladies football. They’ve done great work and have been pumping money into the grassroots. TG4 came on board, televising the matches. For our county final, I think that over 2,000 people watched the live stream. There is interest in it. The more that it’s publicised, the more interest there will be, and then more girls will stay playing football as a result.
This is your opportunity to criticise people like me, but do you think the media can do more to promote ladies' football? There is clearly a difference between the coverage afforded to men’s and women’s sport.
There is, but you can’t really focus on the negatives. You have to think of the positives. For instance, even doing this interview. There is more publicity surrounding ladies football now, which is for the greater good of the game.
Hopefully there will be plenty of action to write about sooner rather than later. All the best for the season ahead.
Thanks a million, Adam.
Jordan’s new role with St Paul’s
By Sean Moriarty Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club. Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level. The High Jumper then switched […]
By Sean Moriarty
Killarney’s Paralympic hero Jordan Lee is to take on a new role with Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club.
Jordan began his sporting career with the local basketball club where he created history by becoming the first amputee athlete to represent their country at international level.
The High Jumper then switched to track and field and qualified for the Tokyo Paralympics where he made history by becoming the first Kerry athlete to act as a flag bearer for an opening ceremony and lead an Irish team into an Olympic Stadium.
Now back home and preparing for the next Olympics in Paris, he has returned to his first love and will join the backroom staff at the local Division One basketball club ahead of their National League campaign which begins next month.
His father Jarlath Lee is head coach with St Paul’s.
“Jordan is joining us as our strength and conditioning coach,” Jarlath told the Killarney Advertiser.
Meanwhile, Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s Killarney Basketball Club National League team will have a distinctive feel to it this year after securing the services of three overseas players it for the season ahead.
The club’s biggest signing is Canadian professional Ben Miller. It was originally hoped that the former two-time Manitoba Player of the Year would play for the local side last season but the pandemic got in the way and the National League was never played. However, he did play two training games this time last year before returning to Canada until travel restrictions lifted.
“He is a good guy, very approachable and very good with the young members,” Jarlath said.
The club has also signed Bulgarian International Emilian Grudov.
The 20-year-old has already represented his home country at U16, 18 and 20 level.
“He is young, athletic and very good offensively,” added Lee.
The returning Lithuanian Dianius Varanaukus completes the club international line up for the 2020/21 season.
Soccer coach licensed to one of the highest levels in Ireland
By Sean Moriarty A Killarney soccer coach has been praised by the FAI for her contribution to soccer in the county and on the occasion of her being granted a UEFA B Licence this week. Ramona Keogh of Mastergeeha FC has qualified for one of highest-ranking coach licences in Europe.The UEFA B Licence is a […]
By Sean Moriarty
A Killarney soccer coach has been praised by the FAI for her contribution to soccer in the county and on the occasion of her being granted a UEFA B Licence this week.
Ramona Keogh of Mastergeeha FC has qualified for one of highest-ranking coach licences in Europe.
The UEFA B Licence is a coaching licence mandated by UEFA, the official governing body of European football. The licence is one level below the UEFA A Licence and allows holders to be head coaches of amateur clubs, youths up to age 16, and assistant coaches for professional clubs.
Ramona started her training in November 2019 and continued, when restrictions allowed, on several block weekends taking place in FAI Headquarters Dublin, Foto Island in Cork, and final assessments in NUIG in Galway.
“Ramona played a significant role in the course group, supporting the younger coaches and challenging those more experienced, ensuring that the group was dynamic, engaging, interactive and a real positive learning environment,” said the FAI’s Head of Coach Education FAI Niall O’Regan.
“Ramona has been a significant role model for not only female coaches but also males coaches in the Kerry region and has done phenomenal work in her previous club Killarney Celtic and more recently with Mastergeeha. It is so important to have such role models and the motivation Ramona has shown is infectious and many coaches will continue in the same vein.”
For Ramona, this week’s award was the culmination of months of hard work, seminars and study.
“It was really tough at the time, final assessments had been submitted, everything had then switched to Zoom and we were so eager to get it finished. Luckily enough I got to finish off a lot of the course content online and then had individual assessments with my tutor Richie Holland current Cork City Men’s Assistant Manager,” she told the Killarney Advertiser. “Then when we returned to outdoor sports in July we got our practical assessments finished with Galway Utd in NUIG.”
The final assessment took place at Mastergeeha FC pitch – the first time ever that a UEFA coaching assessment took place in Kerry.
“I was coaching in Mastergeeha FC in Killarney pre covid and based on logistics and other coaches’ locations in Munster on my UEFA B I was delighted to coordinate a UEFA B assessment with the FAI to be held in the Mastergeeha with the help of the committee,” she added.
“Tom O’Connor FAI Coach Educator and former Interim Republic of Ireland’s Head Coach was really impressed with the setup, the standard of really good footballers and the fantastic committee that ran it so smoothly.”
It was the first time UEFA B assessments were ever held in Kerry and the facilities, committee and the Mastergeeha U16 Boys team were outstanding that day.
She received mentoring and support from some of the biggest names in Irish soccer.
“I was delighted and honoured to receive my UEFA B Diploma Licence,” she said. “Throughout the diploma I’ve had some great tutors, mentors and some great guest speakers from Robbie Keane, Vera Pauw, Stephen Rice and Ruud Dokter FAI High Performance.
“There was a great core group of us on the course from Irish Senior International Players like Katie McCabe, Megan Campbell, Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahy and I’ve made some amazing friendships with all the ladies on the course. From the start it was a group of huge experience, drive and determination was something we all had in common and it’s great to see us all complete it together.”
She could not have done it without the help of her home club.
“On a personal note, I just want to thank Mastergeeha FC for all their help and support, with special mention to all the management committee, teams and coaches. Must give a mention to Allan Moynihan, Brendan Buckley, Paul Lenihan and Ulick O’Sullivan also. I’m really looking forward to getting back to Academy training in the next two weeks,” she added.
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