Ward remains driven for All Ireland success

Galway Ladies' footballer Nicola Ward is relishing this weekend's return to play when Galway open their National League campaign against Mayo at Elvery's McHale Park on Saturday (7.30pm ).

Having put previous injury woes behind her, and also Galway's controversial end to last season's championship, the 24-years-old says Galway is in good shape with new boss Gerry Fahy at the helm.

"It's been six months since the championship," she says," so everyone is really excited about playing, and no better match to start than playing Mayo."

Despite Covid, there is "considerable positivity" in the Galway camp. New manager Fahy opened up trials to the county with more than 100 girls taking part, while he also brought in former Galway great Annette Clarke and her hushand Kieran Collins, both of whom have been involved with Galway underage teams.

"When you get new management it's a fresh start. Clarke has already brought a lot to the team. Herself and her husband know the talent coming through, and they are also challenging the older girls and it's been all positive so far."

Ward continues to work in the Children's Hospital in Crumlin and juggle rosters to ensure she can travel west three times a week.

"I have to work two weekends a month, so I have to plan the days for training. Between working days and nights, it can be tough, driving to Galway two or three nights a week, but so far I've been juggling it well, and with the shortened season, it's a bit easier."

With legendary Sinead Burke having retired, Ward, at 24, is one of the more experienced players, having been involved for seven years.

"Sinead is a massive loss, and I do feel I have to stand up and lead from the front as we have a lot of underage girls, so it's great to guide them in the right direction as well. There's a great mix between youth and experience despite us being not too old."

And, she says, there is more positivity around the women's game with TG4 showing 10 games live and sponsors Lidl delivering a live stream of matches.

There remains, however, that niggle from last year's semi-final that is driving Ward harder.

"It was really disappointing at the time and I suppose we felt we didn't get a fair chance to play. It hasn't really been brought up this year. It's been parked and lessons have been learned.

"We've seen a lot of positives coming from the LGP and the GP joining, and hopefully those situations won't arise again, but it hasn't been brought up this year.

"You might have felt that you missed out on playing in an All Ireland, but had the circumstances been different, were we good enough to beat Cork on the day? I don't know, but I am definitely more hungry and looking forward to this year."

 

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