League win over UCD and O’Connor Cup triumph the peak of ladies football season, says Leona Byrne

John Morley

The victorious DCU Ladies O'Connor Cup team. Image Credit: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile.

DCU ladies football development coach Leona Byrne has heralded the two victories this year over Dublin rivals UCD as the most satisfying wins of the ladies’ campaign this year.

Having been bested by the Belfield college in their previous campaign Byrne found the two victories this year as being the driving points of both League and O’Connor Cup.

“I was the only one involved from last year with the girls,” Byrne told The College View.

“This year’s management was from UCD originally.

“After last few defeats, beating UCD in the league and (O’Connor Cup) semi-final were probably the two most satisfying wins.”

The O’Connor Cup was DCU’s first since 2011 and Byrne said she was “extremely proud” of that achievement.

She signalled out dual star Hannah Hegarty as one of the shining examples of the commitment needed to achieve success at the highest level.

Byrne also highlighted the introduction of vice-captain Niamh Kelly who played for St Pats last year as symbolic of the change in the team.

“Hannah Hegarty put in a huge effort all year for us,” she said.

“She was playing camogie and coming back from injury, so her commitment was very good.

“Niamh decided to play for us when a lot of girls stuck with St Pats. Ultimately Niamh knew it was best for her and her football to be playing O’Connor Cup football.

“This year the girls united as a team. Last year we had a team of individuals but this year we all came together. That was the main difference this year.”

Byrne praised the girls for the hard training all year and acknowledged the difficulties for some girls balancing DCU football commitments with intercounty commitments and exams, and highlighted the pressure college football has attached to it and why there is a need for her welfare position from the players.

“I was who the girls came to talk to for player welfare and that link between management and the players,” she noted.

“It can be very difficult for the girls with some doing grinds and exams. I’m the person they come to if they need someone to talk to.

“If one of the girls was having an off day at training I could let management know what was going on in the background.

“Getting released from intercounty during the league is hard. Most of the girls we’ve here are on scholarships, so they have stayed true to that commitment.

“Thankfully they got the result in the end.”

Looking forward to next year Byrne was optimistic the ladies can build on an extremely successful O’Connor crusade.

“We’re losing about ten of our O’Connor Cup team and one of our Giles players,” said Byrne.

“Pat Ring is very good though. He has been going to all the games and has about 30 plus girls on a list.

“We’re trying to get them in and they will add to our team’s strength and depth next year.”

John Morley

Image Credit: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile