Followers of local football in Dublin may already be aware of The Metropolitan Girls League Academy, a training and development academy for promising female players aged 11 and upwards.
Founded in 2011 under the auspices of the North Dublin Schoolboys/Girls League, the MGL Academy was intended to redress the balance for Dublin and the larger Leinster area, which, it was felt, lacked players being selected for international honours in the younger age categories.
There was also felt to be an uneven distribution of skill across the board, hence the need for more intensive training among the young and promising players.
Two girls from Ringsend have marked themselves out, and have been awarded entry into the MGL two years earlier than the normal admission age. Danielle Joyce and Abbie Larkin, both aged 9, were selected in trials late last year, shortlisted from a crop of 90 participants. They were among seven girls selected from the Ringsend area.
NewsFour met the girls and Abbie’s mother Ethel to hear what it was like to aim for the big leagues from such a young age.
Unsurprisingly, the girls are football-mad. Danielle plays in goal while Abbie plays midfield. Their passion for the game is just as well, as the Academy demands a high standard of dedication and discipline. They display the food diaries they have to keep, logging their nutritional in-take: “everything we eat,” Abbi emphasises, “everything!”
Ethel, Abby’s mother, explains “They’ve been football-mad almost since they could talk or kick a ball. Never an interest in dolls or anything like that, just the football.”
The girls are both Liverpool fans as regards the Premiership. They’re very ready to share their opinions on players. Abbi is a fan of Lionel Messi because “he passes, he’s pacy and he’s skilful.” Cheekily, she adds, “like me!”
Danielle namechecks Ronaldo “even though he’s a diver.” She also rates Pepe, the Portuguese centre back, who currently plays for Real Madrid “although I wouldn’t like to meet him.”
See the Metropolitan Girls League on Facebook for more info and keep an eye open in a few years for these promising young hopefuls on the Ireland International Women’s team.
By Rúairí Conneely