Steve Feeney has been appointed as the first ever manager of the Sligo Rovers women’s team ahead of their debut season in the Women’s National League in 2022.
A former Sligo Rovers player, Feeney has spent the last decade with Ballinamallard as a player and coach.
Whilst playing under Paul Cook in the Showgrounds, he was part of the underage and A team coaching staff as well as taking some senior sessions.
Feeney has coached with Summerhill College and local teams intermittently but following his retirement he became a coach at the Northern Irish side.
Today he has returned to Sligo Rovers as he takes on the task on managing the new Rovers side.
The UEFA ‘A’ licence holder said: “It’s very exciting. It’s my first senior job as a manager so that alone is exciting, but the fact it is Sligo Rovers and the first ever WNL team is something else really.
“It was a privilege to be offered this position. Leaving Ballinamallard was a very tough decision, working under a brilliant manager like Harry McConkey. It was a little bit sad to leave it behind but the opportunity and the challenge here was too appealing to turn down.”
Feeney’s immediate task will be to assemble a Rovers team. Plans have already been made ahead of a series of meetings this week with club staff and officials.
Part of the appeal of the job was the credibility the club had built up in supporting its academy teams and Feeney sees that as a model to build his side.
In recruiting players, he wants ambition to be just as important as talent.
“We need to get a team in place, players signed, before we then move on to pre-season plans. We have a list of players we are going to make contact with imminently.
“We also have the academy players so we’ll be talking to the coaches about who are ready to step up.
“We have our link-up with IT Sligo and I’ll be building relationships there as soon as possible. The scholarship system is brilliant and offering education on top of playing at this level is a massive bonus. It’s a great link-up and I think it could get stronger and stronger if we all work together.
“I think it’s important that it is not just a gesture that Sligo Rovers are going to put a women’s team in the league for the sake of it.
“If you look at the underage system here, it’s a good example of how the club has approached things. At the time it could have just been a licencing necessity and over the years it has been shown that the club has really backed it.
“The girls at the Under-17 and Under-19 are heading in the same way so it’s great now that we have a senior team.
“The league table in the WNL shows a gap between the top three, then a few more, and then the last three. It was a three tier league so we’ll see how we go.
“The big thing for us is to get players on board and find a way of playing that works for us. We have to focus on us and make sure we are competitive in every game. Where we can pick points up, we’ll need to do it. I have no doubt it will be a tough league. But at the same time, it’s a great opportunity and challenge for our players. The top teams will have two or three Irish internationals playing for them.
“Any player who signs for us, they will be facing international players and if that doesn’t excite them, then it probably isn’t for them. We will look at ourselves and push to win points when we can.”
Rovers will play matches in the Showgrounds and Feeney hopes to see supporters get behind the team.
“It would be brilliant to get big crowds and the fact the games are on the main pitch. As well as supporting our own players, we’ll have these big name players in opposition that you would normally only see in Dublin or on TV.
“We hope the Sligo Rovers fans get behind this team from the off and our plan is to make them all proud and the women’s side of the club gets stronger and stronger.”