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Shamrock Rovers aiming to make an impact on the women’s game

Picture the scene. A sea of green and a wall of noise as supporters cheer on their team at a packed Tallaght Stadium. We could be talking about a game this September involving Stephen Bradley’s Shamrock Rovers side chasing down their third League of Ireland title in a row, or the Republic of Ireland women’s national team at home against Finland as they go for a place in the 2023 World Cup play-offs. 

But in years to come the aim is that this event would be a Shamrock Rovers women’s side in action in the WNL and with that goal in mind the club have recently appointed Jason Carey to the newly created role of Head of Women’s Football. shamrockrovers.ie caught up with the experienced coach recently to talk to him about the development of this aspect of the club and the potential of the women’s game.

Rovers in WNL

Women’s WNL U17 2022 squad
Women’s WNL U19 recent lineup v Athlone

“We have under-17 and under-19 women’s teams currently playing in the National Leagues and the aim and plan is to have a team in the WNL next season,” said Carey.

“We are looking to build a successful brand on the women’s side similar to the boy’s and the men’s. We want to tap into the passion that exists for the club. There is a massive opportunity for girls and women’s football in this country. The momentum has changed and the Ireland women’s national team has been instrumental in that. The thoughts of having a reasonably full stadium on a Saturday night for a Rovers women’s game or having a big champions league game in Tallaght on the women’s side similar to the men’s team is pretty exciting.”

Carey brings a wealth of footballing experience with him to the Hoops Academy – a former head coach with the Ireland girls under-15s team, UCD under-19 men’s team, working recently as opposition analyst with Wexford FC in the First Division and ten years as Director of Football at Peamount FC – where amongst his many duties he oversaw and implemented entry into the National Leagues for the clubs under-17 and WNL sides.

Vera Pauw’s Ireland team know if they can beat Finland in Tallaght in early September then they will secure a place in the play-off for next year’s Women’s World Cup. There is sure to be a huge crowd in Dublin 24 for that game and after the final whistle, the supporters will be able to meet with the Irish players pitch side.

Recreate

“Interaction between players and fans is something we want to recreate at a local level. We want the kids to be able to identify with the players at the club. My job is to help recreate something similar to what exists when the national team plays. I’m working with Rovers’ partner and affiliate clubs to get kids into the stadium. 

“I grew up watching the League of Ireland and for me, there is nothing better than a live game. The momentum has changed for girls and women’s football. Young girls want to go to watch games and meet their heroes. It is a very powerful social message for them to be there, to get their selfies and their autographs. They want to go back. That is the hook for all football fans in the country.

“I think back to Ireland playing at Euro 88 and Italia 90. They are ingrained in the football culture in the country. If that happened on the women’s side that would be a massive momentum shift in terms of women’s sport in the county. I know a lot of the Ireland players as I coached many of them when they were 15 (at Peamount). I’ve watched their development. The talent pool behind this group is fairly big. The standard of players is getting better and that is reflected in where they are playing their football. Look at the Ireland captain Katie McCabe; she is a superstar at Arsenal and we have her sister (Lauryn McCabe) playing at the club (at under-17).

“This past week we had five Rovers players away on international duty with the Ireland women’s under-19 team [playing against England at St. George’s Park]. Similar to the boys team, we want to create an exciting brand for women’s football.”

Coaching roles

Carey, a schoolteacher specialising in PE, began his coaching career in his teens, progressing to his UEFA A licence and has a degree in PE and a masters in performance coaching.

“Teaching and coaching is a massive part of my life since I started coaching at 16 when I realised I wasn’t going to be a famous footballer. I started at my local club Neilstown Rangers – now Collinstown – with an under-10 group that my nephew played for. I also coached teams I was playing on. I started on the FÁS course originally. Roy Keane was on the playing course and I was on the coaching course that was in the same building down in Stewart’s Hospital in Palmerstown. I went to the University of Limerick to study PE and coached teams down there. 

“I was Director of Football at Peamount which was a broad role. You are trying to develop coach education, improve facilities, and run tournaments. At Rovers, it is a lot more focused. I’m working closely with Shane [Robinson – Rovers’ Academy Director]. He has created this unbelievable model of how to do things correctly at a professional football club. For me it is a great example to look at and go about how can we can replicate on the girl’s side what he has created with the boys. The facilities are second to none – probably the best in the country.”

Roadstone

At the end of May, Rovers held a graduation ceremony for the nine boys players who were part of Rovers’ transition year programme run in conjunction with Ashfield College from their own classroom at Rovers’ Academy at Roadstone. 

“Next year’s transition year will have five girls on it. Ideally, we’d like to have all our under-17 team on that transition year course. It would change the pathways within the game. It is an opportunity for them to play full time, to supplement that with their education and who knows where that might take them. Rovers want to make an impact on the women’s game. The club are supporting that and want to build a really good foundation that replicates the men’s side.”