"I think Leitrim ladies football is going in the right direction"

May 25, 2024

Muireann Devaney of Leitrim ©Seb Daly/Sportsfile

By Daire Walsh  

After a couple of years away from the set-up, Muireann Devaney is making the very most of her return to the Leitrim panel. 

While she previously represented the O’Rourke County at adult level across the 2020 and 2021 inter-county seasons, the latter year also saw Devaney showcasing her soccer skills in the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division with Athlone Town — as well as on the international stage with the Republic of Ireland U19s.

Given she was set to enter into third-level education at University of Galway at the end of 2022, Devaney felt it was going to be difficult to continue with both Leitrim and Athlone Town. Having opted to place her focus on the latter, she appeared off the bench as the Midlanders secured a maiden FAI Women’s Cup title with a penalty shootout victory over Shelbourne at Tallaght Stadium last November. 

Yet with a return to Sligo Rovers, with whom she began her League of Ireland career as an U17 player, reducing her commute when travelling from home, the Glencar native responded positively to a request from Leitrim boss Jonny Garrity to come back into the county fold. 

“I was delighted to get the call from Jonny, to be asked to come back in and for the girls to welcome me back in. I’m really enjoying it, it’s a good, professional set-up. Leitrim ladies county board couldn’t do enough for us and I think Leitrim ladies football is going in the right direction. That’s down to the hard work of people behind the scenes,” Devaney acknowledged. 

“Sometimes you just have to make decisions on what is going to work for yourself. I was travelling a lot with college and soccer in Athlone. For me personally, it just wasn’t going to work. 

“At the start of the season I moved back to Sligo Rovers. I’m still in college in Galway obviously, but it has left it a bit easier that I can get back to doing what I love and that is playing Gaelic. I’m closer probably to Sligo than any other Leitrim town, so it works brilliantly for me.” 

Being part of a Glencar/Manorhamilton side that secured four consecutive Leitrim senior football championship titles from 2020 to 2023 very much kept Devaney on the radar within the county and she eventually returned to action as a substitute against Longford in the final round of the Lidl National Football League Division 4 group stages at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on March 3. 

Her haul of 1-1 off the bench wasn’t enough to get them past Limerick in a Division 4 semi-final three weeks later, but Leitrim have since made amends by capturing the TG4 Connacht Intermediate Championship crown. 

Following up a comfortable semi-final triumph against Sligo, Leitrim claimed a 3-12 to 0-19 win over Roscommon in a provincial decider held at St Brigid’s GAA in Kiltoom last Sunday week with Devaney contributing an impressive tally of 1-2.

“We probably went in as underdogs after not making promotion in Division Four and losing out to Limerick in the semi-final. We knew what we were coming up against in a good Roscommon side, but Jonny and the management prepared us well and luckily enough it all worked out on the day,” Devaney said of their Connacht success. 

“We know the standard Roscommon is at and that’s where we’re looking to strive to be, in the higher divisions in the league. We know what we were coming up against and no Leitrim team wants to lose to Roscommon. We were delighted to get the win on the day.” 

Prior to facing Longford on their home patch at the beginning of March, Devaney’s most recent competitive outing for Leitrim was a TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship quarter-final duel with Kildare at Duggan Park, Ballinasloe on August 8, 2021 — when the then 18-year-old attacker bagged her county’s only goal in an eventual 1-11 to 1-7 defeat to the Lilywhites. 

She admitted it did take a game or two for her to readjust to an inter-county game that had risen in standard during her absence, but she ultimately finds herself in a good place ahead of the forthcoming All-Ireland series. 

“I hadn’t been in the county set-up for a while, so every year the professionalism of it is up and you have to get used to girls. The seriousness of it has gone through the roof and training intensity, stuff like that. 

“Even match intensity is so much different from club football. It did take a while, but I’m delighted now to be settled back in and it was great to get starting in the Connacht final.” 

Having overcome the challenge of a Roscommon team that recently secured promotion to Division 2 of the Lidl NFL in 2025, Leitrim will be hoping to claim another scalp when their All-Ireland IFC Group 4 campaign gets underway next month. 

Tyrone will compete in the top-tier of the league next season as a result of reaching this year’s Division 2 final and Leitrim are set to play host to them in the coming weeks. Their fellow Division 4 side Wicklow are also expected to provide a stern test, but these are exactly the kind of challenges that Devaney and her team-mates are craving. 

“They’re the big teams you want to play. If we want to be pushing on now, we have to play the big guns essentially. That’s what Tyrone are and Wicklow will be no different. We’re going to cherish them and we’re going to really try and put out good performances, see where it takes us.” 

While it is something that will be off her plate for the next few months, this autumn will see Devaney returning to University of Galway to begin her third year there as an agricultural student. Although she is uncertain of what the future will hold after she completes her stint in the college, Devaney had her eye on this four-year Bachelor of Science course for a considerable period of time and it has lived up to her expectations to date. 

“It’s really enjoyable so far. I live on a family farm here in Leitrim. Every day consists of doing some sort of farming. I knew when I was doing the Leaving Cert that that is what I wanted to do. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do after it, but it’s about getting the Level 8 done first,” Devaney added. 

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