By Niall Gartland
CARRYDUFF started up a ‘junior’ team with the view of developing their younger players, and it’s arguably gone even better than planned as they now stand on the brink of a place in the Ulster Junior Ladies Championship final.
They host Lavey of Derry this Sunday (Ballykinlar, 2pm) and their star performer in their quarter-final win over St John’s of Antrim was Longford native Maura Morgan, one of Carryduffy’s veteran players.
She was in fantastic form in front of the posts, but she’s also part of the managerial set-up alongside Noel Napier, Shane Donnelly, Steven Cassin and Gerard Sergeant.
Explaining how she came to straddle a coaching and playing role, Morgan said: “We’ve a very good management team and those lads have been working with the girls for a long time. A lot of our present success is down to their hard work.
“They know the girls inside out because of how long they’ve been involved. I’m on board to assist with the coaching, once I hang up the boots for good, that’s the direction I want to go down. I’m finding I’m learning a lot from the lads so I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”
Explaining how all this has come to fruition, Morgan said that the main objective has been keeping young girls on board at a time in their development where dropping out is a major temptation for many.
“We have a very young team, lots of minors and u-16s, and the object has been to guide the girls as we see them as the stars of the future for Carryduff.
“There’s a few older girls as well. We’ve been working hard for each other, sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t, but thankfully so far it’s been going very well more often than not.
“We had a junior team for a short spell a few years ago and we decided to give it another go to keep the young girls playing football.
“There’s always been talent in Carryduff but there’s a big drop out between u-16 and minor level, it’s a similar theme across many clubs, so we’re just doing our best to keep them on board.”
While the team ethos rules supreme, Morgan namechecks a few of the players worth keeping an eye on this Sunday as they get themselves set to take on a Lavey team that edged out Clonmore in their quarter-final clash.
“We’ve great young players. Sian O’Neill has come back from a long-term injury, Ciara McGeogh won a Secondary Schools All-Star, she’s one of our midfielders. We’ve a lot of talent and depth in the squad and it’s just about bringing everyone together and moulding it. We have great individual players but you need to have everyone rowing in the same direction.
“I’m one of the older ones on the team, we’ve a couple of mature girls like Orla Napier. I’ll not say our ages but we’re the mature ones. Orla has two daughters on the team as well, Eimear and Meabh, and her husband Noel is one of the coaches.”