One of Cork City’s busiest coaches is Jess Lawton. Managing both the U17 and U19 WNL teams this season has been a challenge, but one the Youghal native has grabbed hold of with the enthusiasm she’s become known for throughout the club. We sat down with Jess to review the opening games of the Underage WNL season, and the remarkable success of our players on the underage international scene.
The U17s have had a remarkable start ot the season with two wins and eleven goals scored with some new young players adding to those still underage from the WU17 Cup Finalist team of 2021. “We’ve been delighted with the new girls that have come in and they’ve come ready to compete, eager to learn and straight away they’ve been giving everything in training.”
It helps that the standards in the squad are set by Captain Grace Flanagan and VIce Captains Heidi Mackin and Maebh O’Leary. “It’s brilliant, they’ve all been with us a couple of years and they’re leading by example with the new girls, setting the standards and showing what it takes to get to the level they’re at,” says Lawton “I really want the girls communicating on the pitch, sharing information, and taking ownership to cover each other and support each other and it’s been brilliant so far. We had a tough opener against Bray, it was 1-1 at half-time and the girls knew where we needed to improve, and we moved up a level that Bray couldn’t deal with.”
“We are blessed with attacking options, but we’ve worked so hard in pre-season on transitioning to defence and to see the girls impose that game on our opposition so far has been great.”
The U19s have had a stop-start opening to the campaign, and while new rules in the league allows a limited number of senior players to play down, injuries and illness have impacted the U19s so far. “We are down a few players, but the girls have been fantastic and really should have gotten more out of the game in Galway. We gave away a couple of soft goals which meant we were chasing the game a little, but we hit the woodwork six times in the game, and I can’t praise the players enough. We’re delighted to see players called up to the senior squad by Paul and getting international recognition – we’ve had players missing on international camp for both matches, and we are a development league, but once we get everyone settled, there’s no doubts the results will come. It’s a fantastic group.”
The International recognition for Cork City players continued with Eva Mangan, Fiana Bradley, Grace Flanagan, Ellie O’Brien and Sarah Bell among those on international duty in recent months but at the moment it’s Heidi Mackin and Chloe Atkinson that Lawson has to plan without, both girls on James Scott’s U17 squad for the Elite Phase Qualifiers underway and Lawson brought members of the U19 and U17 squads to Tallaght stadium on Wednesday to cheer on their team-mates.
“It was brilliant, and it was lovely to be on a bus as a group without that focus on a game that we have to play. The girls were slagging me about how relaxed I was” laughs Lawson “but it is something we want to instil in these groups. We are there for each other, we support each other, on the pitch and off it. There is a big crossover across the U17 and U19 squads and a lot of them have come through the academy together so to be there supporting Heidi and Chloe – and for the two girls to know their teammates were in the stands for them – was fantastic.”
“It was also brilliant for everyone to see over 1000 supporters at an U17 match, to show them how much the game here is growing and the quality of the team and the football we played. It’s just such an exciting time to be involved with these teams”
Cork City U17s are away to Treaty United on Saturday 26th
Cork City U19 are home to Wexford Youths on Sunday 27th