Sports

Swifts kick off new season with Derry City derby clash.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

SION Swifts Ladies will kick-off their 2018 Danske Bank Women's Premiership season next Wednesday with a North West derby with newly promoted Derry City Ladies at Darragh Park, Castlederg.

The Swifts had a memorable 2017 season, finishing as runners-up in the league and capturing the IFA Women's Challenge Cup at Windsor Park with a 2-0 win in the final over Newry City Ladies.

Team coach Tony McGinley is hoping to get things off to the perfect start with a win over their neighbours, who have returned to the league along with Portadown, who begin their campaign tonight (Wenesday) with a tough task against league champions Linfield.

"Form goes out the window for derby games. Derry have a tough start with the league champions tonight, and then they have to come up to ourselves.

"It'll be difficult for them to get anything out of the game with Linfield, so they'll be looking at us to bounce back.

They'll make it difficult for us.

Having been relegated a few years ago, they'll come back this year a bit wiser.

"It's our first game of the season, at home, the goal is to go out and get three points and kick-start out season from the very beginning.

Swifts have been busy strengthening their squad, and McGinley is confident that the additions can help Sion challenge on all fronts.

Two big new signings are NI international Aimee Mackin, who has arrived from Newry City, who has since disbanded since last season, and the club's former skipper, Moya Feehan.

"Aimee Mackin is a hell of a signing for us. Every club north and south of the country wanted her, so we were pleased we were able to convince her to come to us. Linfield and Crusaders amongst others wanted her, so it's a major capture for us.

Goalkeeper Olivia Walker arrives with a big reputation from Everton Ladies, while young attacker Michelle McDaid from Buncrana will bring pace to the forwards.

"The squad has improved again from last season in our opinion," said McGinley. " You look to build from a position of strength, and we were second in the league last year and won an Irish Cup. It was important to try and improve again, as all the other teams around us will be trying to build.

"We identified a few areas that might need strengthening. I think we're in a healthy position where we have a good squad of about 18 to 20." In their fourth season in the Women's Premier League, McGinley can see it being the most competitive year that Sion have been involved in yet.

"Linfield will be favourites and deservedly so, they're title holders, so they'll be the team to beat and whoever finishes above them will find themselves very very close.

"Crusaders had a difficult season last year but have brought in a lot of new players and an experienced manager.

They will definitely be there and thereabouts. I think anything in the top four will be closely fought." Swifts went unbeaten since last May until the end of the season, and McGinley is hoping to carry that momentum into the new season.

"Confidence is high, and there's a competitive edge with the new players in. The pre-season has went well so hopefully we can carry that into the new season.

"From within, we are just looking to improve, and that's what we are telling the girls.

Once you've tasted success, you want it again. We've put a squad together that's more than capable of challenging on all fronts, and time will tell if we're good enough.

"When we won the cup, I said that the group of girls had created a memory that will last a lifetime. Although we strive to be as focused and professional as possible, we keep telling them it's about creating memories.

When you win something, who don't want to give it up without a fight," said McGinley.

"Last year, we learned that by believing, sacrificing, and buying into it, that there's no reason why we can't challenge on all fronts.

"Although last year we ended up just three points behind the winners, it felt for a long time that we weren't really in that title race until close to the end.

We'll be looking to get points on the board as soon as possible and be in contention from the be ginning.

"We aren't looking any further ahead of Derry City on April 25." Meanwhile, Swifts' youth player Cora Chambers was awarded Player of the Tournament in the recent U16 Development Tour nament.

Northern Ireland defeated Kosovo, Luxembourg and Faroe Islands to win the tournament.

Cora scored one goal in the tournament and had a number of assists. Her club teammate Teegan Lynch also had a great tournament, collecting player of match in one of the games.

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