The Women’s Irish Premiership season came to an end last week with Glentoran lifting the trophy for the third time in four seasons. Having secured the title the previous week, the Glens rounded off the season with a 2-0 win over Linfield which also ensured they went the entire season unbeaten.
Last season saw their bid for a hat-trick of titles thwarted by Cliftonville and forward Kerry Beattie admitted that was a major motivation for them this time around. She said: “We were so disappointed last year. One memory that sticks out is having to give them a guard of honour. For us, it was about getting consistency and fortunately, we were able to do that.”
On being able to keep their focus despite the looming prospect of an invincible season, Beattie said: “To be honest we knew what our goal was, but to do that we had to take it game by game. The only time we focused on being unbeaten was when we played Linfield on the last day.”
One factor Beattie attributed to the club’s success was behind the scenes. In the close season, the club announced a sponsorship deal with Gym Co, which gave the squad access to their facilities throughout the season.
The club also appointed several new support staff, including Strength and Conditioning coach Sandy McDermott and physio Emma Donaghey. The arrival of Donaghey meant that players had their own tailored fitness program. Beattie cited a change in morale and a sense of togetherness in the squad as a result of these behind-the-scenes changes.
Beattie’s return to Glentoran
Last year saw Beattie return to her homeland after a spell playing in Scotland for Glasgow City. On how this move helped her, she said: “As a player, it was great to be around players of a higher level. Ultimately it developed me as a person because it was a tough time in my career, moving away from home. I was able to get myself back physically and mentally.”
Whilst in England the Women’s Super League season begins in September and concludes in May, the Irish Premiership season runs from April to October. Beattie cited there are positives and negatives of this when it comes to international camps.
On this, she said: “I think the benefit is that we play throughout the summer. A lot of us are actually in season during summer international camps. The drawback is that the girls who play in other leagues are out of season. When we go into camp this month we’ll be ending our season so maybe we’ll be a bit mentally tired.”
The Northern Ireland national team adopted a full-time model after qualifying for Euro 2022, but at the domestic level the clubs still operate on a part-time basis, meaning that players such as Beattie have to balance work or studying with training.
On what needs to happen for the league to move towards being full-time, Beattie said: “I think probably just the standard of the league. It’s up to us to set the standards and attract players from other leagues.”