The Kilkenny and District League will be gunning for glory when their under-16 girls’ team travel to Limerick for the Gaynor Cup this weekend.
After finishing third in last year’s competition, the girls will be hoping to go all the way this time around.
With 12 of last year’s panel still eligible, the core of the team will once again be strong.
Paul McGinley, who is at the helm of the Kilkenny side, believes his charges have a great chance to claim the spoils in the inter-league competition.
“We’re well prepared, and we’re really looking forward to this competition,” he said. “The girls have been working as a panel since September. Since then we’ve had 42 sessions together, between games and trainings.
“They’re really in a good place,” he added. “They’re well prepared and raring to go for the tournament.”
Kilkenny will travel to the University of Limerick quietly confident of their chances, having played a number of different teams in the build-up to the tournament.
Taking on - and beating - the likes of Waterford, Midlands and Limerick County, the Cats are in flying form.
“There’s a great vibe in the camp,” said McGinley. “Each member has pushed themselves and one another to give their best.”
“While we have a number of exceptional players, the depth of our panel is our greatest strength,” he said. “This could prove vital in a competition condensed into such a short time-frame.”
The squad have been using the all-weather facilities in Derdimus, something which McGinley thinks has helped their progress.
“The all-weather pitch and the lads looking over it have been fantastic,” he said. “It’s a huge boost to us and a great asset to the league.”
Alongside manager Paul McGinley are Michael Clifford and Rachel Lynch. Both have played their part in getting the squad ready for the Cup.
“Michael would be very well-known in soccer circles,” said McGinley. “To have him coaching a young team is a real coup for Kilkenny soccer. He’s a pure winner and understands what it takes to be successful at the elite level.”
“Rachel has been fantastic and has developed a great bond with the girls,” the manager added. “She has devised a strength and conditioning programme for the squad that has them in great shape for the tournament.”
Seeded in a tough group, Kilkenny will face Sligo/Leitrim, Donegal, Cork and Waterford. In three groups of five, qualification will prove difficult, with only the top team in each group guaranteed to go through to the knockout stage.
As well as the chance of a title, the girls will have an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of international coaches.
“A big thing for the girls is that the FAI will have scouts at this tournament in Limerick,” said McGinley. “From what they see there they will pick an Irish under-17 team. It could be a very big opportunity for the girls.”
Jenny Clifford broke through onto the under 17 panel, and others will be looking to emulate her this weekend.
Gaynor Cup panel - Jenny O’Keeffe, Ali O’Keeffe, Hannah Scott, Ava O’Gorman, Ciara Delaney, Beth Behan, Lauren Valentine, Ciara Phelan, Laura Tynan, Aine Fennelly, Aoife Cantwell, Olivia Nolan, Niamh Deely, Sophie O’Dwyer, Tara Clifford, Ria Lawson, Rebecca Walsh, Jennifer O’Keeffe, Sarah McKevitt, Christine Coffey.
Management team: Paul McGinley, Michael Clifford, Rachel Lynch.