Both the past and the present are giving Glentoran Women manager Billy Clarke hope for the future as the current Dankse Bank Women’s Premiership champions set about chasing down current leaders Cliftonville Ladies.
The League campaign resumes tomorrow night after a two-month break and not only does Clarke have his international players back in the fold after playing for Northern Ireland at the Women’s Euro 2022 finals, his squad has been bolstered by the return of defender Annie Timoney and last season’s top goalscorer Kerry Beattie after both had spells in Scotland.
Adding a further layer of strength to an already talented squad is the prospect of having injured duo Caragh Hamilton and Casey Howe available for selection, as the Glens attempt to overturn a five-point gap at the top.
Cliftonville don’t resume their League programme until Wednesday-week, giving Glentoran an opportunity to cut the deficit to just two points when they face Lisburn Ladies tomorrow.
“We’ve only had one training session with the girls who played at the Euros,” says Clarke.
“We are trying to get them integrated into the squad again and it’s how we move forward from that with a busy period coming up — a League match on Monday night, the Irish Cup on Friday, another match next Wednesday and then we’re into Champions League.
“It’s good to have the international players back and focused solely on playing for Glentoran, trying to get wins in the League first and foremost.
“We want to get back into a winning frame of mind and I expect the players who weren’t in the Northern Ireland squad will be glad to get back to playing football again and the ones who were at the Euros are looking forward to playing with their team-mates again.
“There’s always a concern that there might be a hangover from the Euros, but the other side of it for us is that the squad is revitalised with Annie Timoney and Kerry Beattie coming back to us. They are quality players and it is exciting to have them back at the club.
“It gives us a bit more strength in depth.”
Giving rise to the hopes of overturning Cliftonville’s advantage is the memory of last season when the Reds also led before the Glens powered on and won the title with a game to spare.
“It’s not just the squad that we have that gives me the hope that we can claw the points back and catch Cliftonville, I look back at last year and take confidence from that when Cliftonville — although they have strengthened — were ahead and we overtook them,” says Clarke.
“We are very focused on what we have to do, the players are very focused on what they have to do and it’s a very simple case — if we win our matches, we win the League.”
TOMORROW’S FIXTURES: Lisburn Ladies v Glentoran Women (8pm), Mid Ulster Ladies v Linfield Ladies (7.45pm).