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How Sion’s blueprint for a swift upturn in form is paying off


Catherine Hyndman

Catherine Hyndman

Catherine Hyndman

Five wins in their last six matches, 20 goals scored and a returning Northern Ireland international coming off the bench to net a crucial match-winning strike, not to mention booking a place in the semi-finals of the Irish Cup.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround for Sion Swifts Ladies after taking just one point from their first seven games of the Danske Bank Women’s Premiership season.

Tony McGinley knew action needed to be taken so, after taking a step back from the heat of management, he returned to the dugout, brought former Linfield Ladies title-winning manager Ryan McConville onto the coaching staff and now they are one of the form teams in the League.

Small changes have brought about a big transformation and the additions of Catherine Hyndman  — who scored the goal to seal a 2-1 comeback win over Linfield last Wednesday — plus Naomi Donnan and Hayley O’Donnell have helped revitalise a squad that was low on confidence, but never quality.

“Three points for us at the beginning of the season were difficult to come by, so we don’t take them for granted now, they are appreciated,” said McGinley, who will take his team to the Brandywell for a derby with Derry City Women on Wednesday.

“We had a hard game against Linfield and we knew there was going to be a reaction after we beat them 6-0 on their last visit when, unfortunately for them, they just caught us on the wrong day.

“Where we are is far from ideal, but the rub of the green and the small things are going our way at the minute and you take everything that is going when you have that momentum because when you are bottom, things can be tough.

“We were bottom when we went to Crusaders and they scored a last-minute winner and you get that kind of feeling that when you’re down there you are down.

“We have worked hard to build confidence again and put a bit of belief into the girls. We’re in a better place now and there are a lot of factors involved in that and long may it continue.”

Bigger tests lie ahead, with trips to title-chasing Cliftonville Ladies and Glentoran Women coming next month.

Another challenge for McGinley is maintaining a strong squad, with departures anticipated before the transfer window closes next weekend.

“Although we’ve got a few new faces in last week, I’m aware that we’re going to lose a few, so it’s a case of in one door and out the other, which is unfortunate because it changes the dynamics of what we have been doing the last few weeks, where we have been building,” he said. “The players that we are losing are important players and quality players. It leaves us having to build again and hopefully it doesn’t kill the momentum that we have built up.

“There are a couple of players who have been very good for us over the last five or six weeks and it’s going to be a very different looking team in a couple of weeks’ time, but that’s the nature of the women’s game.”

FIXTURES (Wednesday, 7.45pm): Crusaders Strikers v Cliftonville Ladies (8pm), Derry City Women v Sion Swifts Ladies, Glentoran Women v Linfield Ladies

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