LAST season proved to be one to remember for Tony McGinley and his Sion Swifts Ladies team. They not only finished as runners-up in the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership, but they also won the Electric Ireland Women’s Challenge Cup following a 2-0 final win over the now defunct Newry City Ladies at the National Stadium in Belfast.
Not content with those achievements, the local side has been busy in the off-season, adding even more quality and potential to an already impressive squad ahead of what McGinley believes will be the most competitive top flight campaign ever.
“The million dollar question is if we can back up last year’s success, but when a club achieves something you always want more. All we aim to do as a club is to improve season by season and hopefully that will take us to a good place,” he acknowledged.
“We won’t give up our Irish Cup title lightly because that night we had at Windsor will live long in the memory and if we can replicate something similar then it will have been a good season.
“You hope and dream of being there or there abouts in the league, but I think this season is going to be even more difficult than ever.”
Joining the ranks at Sion Swifts are former Doncaster Belles and Leicester City trainee, ex-Everton and Notts County Women’s Super League goalkeeper, Olivia Walker, Northern Ireland senior internationals, Moya Feehan and Aimee Mackin, and exciting prospect, Michelle McDaid.
“Without a doubt, we are happy with who we have brought in,” McGinley beamed.
“Goalkeepers in the women’s game are like hens teeth, so we had to cast the net wide. We reached out to some contacts in England and Olivia got in touch.
“She’s only 19 but she has a lot of experience. Potentially she has it all in front of her.
“We also brought in Michelle, who played against us in the Foyle Cup and impressed us. She was only 17 at the time, but she is full of potential and we felt the environment we could provide her with would give her the chance to bloom.
“Moya and Aimee won the Premier League in 2015 with Newry and played in the Champions League in 2016. Everyone north and south wanted them but we were lucky enough that they had heard good things about us and jumped at the chance to come here.”
While the addition of that quartet is an undoubted plus for Sion, the unfortunate loss of Kelly Crompton due to an ACL injury, which required surgery, is the only negative of pre-season.
Sion begin their season at home to Derry City on Wednesday night. Kick-off at Darragh Park is 8pm.
FULL PREVIEW IN TODAY’S STRABANE CHRONICLE