Making Waves In Ireland

Ben Gilby spoke to DLR Waves head coach Graham Kelly about the FAI Women’s National League side who have come a long way and are highly ambitious to grow further.

Above: DLR Waves head coach Graham Kelly. Photo: Oisin Keniry/INPHO.

Graham Kelly has been at DLR Waves for three years and, from the outset, was very clear about what he wanted to achieve.

Upon arrival at the club who are named after the Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown county they are based in which is part of the Dublin region, Kelly discussed a five year plan with the club chairman.

“We have big ambitious and in the last three years the club has grown massively from just one senior team to now having a senior team, an U19 Team and an U17 team all playing in the Women’s National League (WNL). We also wanted to ensure we had football for any girl who came to the club who might not be ready just yet to go and play in the WNL so with this in mind we created two new teams in the Metropolitan Girls League at U16 & U18 level so in the space of two full season’s the club has grown from one team to five which is fantastic for all female footballers in the Dún Laoghaire Rathdown region and surrounding areas

“Alongside this we are now this year running summer camps and afterschool coaching programmes in local schools to help promote DLR Waves in the community.”

This growth has been all the more impressive with it taking place amidst a global pandemic. “As a club we kept connected with all our player’s and coaching staff through Zoom meetings and home workouts for the players, It was a really tough time for people but in DLR we always say it’s so important that it’s the person comes first before the player.”

With light now at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, Kelly is focused on trying to meet some of the other challenges that DLR Waves face.

Above: DLR Waves’ Carla McManus (right) in action against Wexford Youths this season. Photo: @LOIWomen

“Our five teams are now up and running and all back training and our continued partnership with University College, Dublin (UCD) is growing from strength to strength. As with nearly every club in the country, the biggest challenge is always securing training facilities which again UCD and DLR have been tremendous in helping us with, We are very grateful for their continued support.”

The FAI Women’s National League season is now well underway for 2021 and Graham is keen to ensure the club’s standing in the competition continues to improve.

“The league this season is definitely shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent years. It’s brilliant to see all the clubs continue to develop and every game is really competitive. From our point of view our aim as a team is to try break into the top four. The last two seasons that I have been here we finished sixth so if we can break into that top four this season that would be a big step forward in our development.

“In terms of the FAI WNL itself, it is made up of nine clubs, Peamount United, Shelbourne, Wexford Youths, Galway WFC, Bohemians, Cork City, Athlone Town, Treaty United and ourselves,” explained Graham.”

“All the players that play for the clubs are amateurs and many are still in school, college or full time employment. In the time I have been involved in the league I have seen massive improvements and in fairness to all the clubs they have all worked really hard for this, Also playing in the league are be a number of Republic of Ireland international players which is great for publicity of the league.

“This season the FAI agreed to stream every game live on free of charge which again is fantastic promotion of the league and everyone gets to see the real quality playing here in Ireland.

Above: DLR Waves’ Jess Gleeson competes for the ball against Galway’s Rachel Kearns. Photo: John Crothers.

Despite DLR Waves having five teams of their own, they have put in place an exciting relationship with local clubs to develop a player pathway scheme.

“We have nine partner clubs and when each of these clubs have players that finish at U14/15 level they then have an opportunity to come into our pathway through our U16 MGL team. At present we have around 100 players in the club throughout our five teams.”

As with every club, DLR Waves can only function successfully through a magnificent team of volunteers as Graham highlights:

“We have so many people here from the management committee, U16, U17, U18 coaches right up to all the first team staff that do so much work it’s fantastic and I am forever grateful for all their help. But I have to say without doubt our unsung hero is John Hartigan who is our kit man with the first team but is so much more than a kit man, We are very lucky to have John and we really do appreciate everything he does for us.”

We ended our chat by looking at the growth of women’s football more generally in the Republic of Ireland.

“I think the women’s game in Ireland is growing from strength to strength, The introduction of the new U19 league this season is massive progress as we were losing a lot of players from the game when they finished playing U17 as some may just not have been ready to make the step up to 1st team level, This new U19 league and the continued progression of the U17 league is key to player development, As a league overall we can continue to improve and hopefully as the standard keeps improving we can all help to develop more players for Vera Pauw’s senior international squad and we see Republic of Ireland qualify for the next World Cup.”

Don’t miss Impetus’ regular round-up of all the action from the FAI Women’s National League brought to us by Ciarán Duffy of Post to Post Sport. Check out our specific Irish Women’s Football section at for all the details!

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