"There are girls out there that missed the radar and didn't play underage, who can do a job" 1 year ago

"There are girls out there that missed the radar and didn't play underage, who can do a job"

Brian Fenton, Bernard Brogan, Damien Comer, 'Bomber' Liston, Conor Gormley and Lee Keegan.

Just six names from a squad of 24 we compiled, last year, of county stars that had never played minor. There is a similar story in ladies football, and names that should inspire players that may have never featured in their county's underage sides.

Niamh McEvoy and Niamh McLaughlin, who won respective Leinster and Ulster titles at the weekend, joined PlayXPlay host Jenny Murphy for the latest episode and gave hope to all players that might have been missed the first, or second, time around.

McLaughlin is back and rocking in goals for Donegal Ladies after a footballing spell abroad with Newcastle and Sunderland. She praised Donegal boss Maxi Curran for spreading the net far and wide for new talents.

"In the current squad of around 28 players, around 10 are 18 and under. And we lost a few players last year so you have to go rooting through the clubs. It's not just, 'Oh who has been playing for the county teams at underage level'. There are girls out there that maybe missed the radar and didn't play underage, but who can do a job."

McEvoy [from 27:00 below] said the story was similar with Dublin and spoke about Martha Byrne's unconventional route from Dublin outsider to All-Ireland winner.

Niamh McEvoy celebrates with her Dublin teammates after their All-Ireland win in 2017. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile)

McEvoy was already well established in the Dublin team when, in December 2016, Mick Bohan was appointed manager.

"When Mick Bohan became involved," McEvoy recalled, "he hadn’t been very much involved in ladies teams for around 10 years and he didn’t know any of us that had been there for the last decade.

"And he very much went back to the club structures and was looking around for players and bringing girls in. We had a training panel where he was trying to find new players.

"It makes it a much more competitive environment. You are not going to perform well unless you have that competitive environment in training."

Bohan brought in a number of new faces to complement the Dublin squad he inherited but one shining example to newcomers was Martha Byrne. The Cuala defender was called into a Dublin development squad at the age of 12 but dropped out soon after and did not get another look-in until she went to college.

"Martha is an incredible footballer, an incredible back, but she never made any underage panel. Mick [in 2016] just put a bit of trust in her and she is playing out of her skin now."

Talk turned to what was required to make that step-up from club to county level.

"You need to be very careful with the girls coming through," said McEvoy, "in terms of, like, sometimes they're very, very talented minor players but if they don't have that work ethic...

"I know it probably took me longer than it should've to, like, establish myself as even a member of the panel... I know I've spoken about her before in the past, Denise Masterson - like, she just was a work horse. It's just a completely different level.

"The step up is even bigger than it would be in the men. You go from under-18 to senior... At least in the men's, there's like under-20 and I think you just have to be very careful with these like really talented underage players and make sure that they know that a huge amount of work has to go into it, like.

"You have to be at a certain level physically, strength-wise and aerobically to be able to compete. So sometimes I think some girls would find it hard to transition in because they just were the star at underage, you know that kind of way? So I think that's probably one of the big things."

Niamh McLaughlin pointed out that college, work commitments or playing multiple sports often pulls talented players in different directions but the ones that truly have that drive and desire rise to the top.

"I know a lot of the younger girls, if they're very good at something, they're probably very good at soccer or they're very good at something else.

"Like, Amy Boyle Carr (pictured above), I was just saying she played against Holland for Colin Bell in the senior team, you know. And she's winning player of the match in the Ulster final yesterday."

McLaughlin has been on that winding road and is now back and doing scoring damage for Donegal.

"The girls with the right attitudes always pull through," she says, and she's is spot on.