Barbara O’Connell Interview by Eoin Donovan

There are very few people in Cork women’s football who need no introduction and Barbara O’Connell is certainly one of them.

The Wilton United player, who has also played for Cork City Women’s FC in the Women’s National League, has won 47 major trophies in her career including the 2018 FAI Intermediate Cup.

Currently, she is on the FAI Women’s Leadership Program after completing her UEFA B License with the FAI.

Barbara: “I absolutely love playing with Wilton,” she told Pro-Scout 3 about her career to date.

Barbara: “I started playing with Wilton in 1993 and apart from a brief stint with Carrigaline United and my time Cork City Women’s FC, Wilton is where I’ve enjoyed my football the most. I was apart of very successful teams over two decades and I have won 47 trophies under some fantastic coaches including Pat Bowdren, Stephen Lynch, and Dan Murphy.”

Barbara: “At Wilton, I created some fantastic memories, met great friends, progressed as a player and grew my love for the game.”

Barbara: “Out of all the 47 trophies, my favourite memory would be in 2009 when I won my first Player of the Match trophy after a cup final in Turners Cross. Having my two girls Jesse (aged 7) and Alix (Aged 5) as mascots made it more special. A close second favourite moment was my latest FAI Intermediate cup win in 2018, we scored in injury time to win one-nil. It was a scorcher of a day up in Home Farm’s pitch in Whitehall, Dublin. None of us were looking forward to extra time so when we scored so late in the game, we all suddenly got energy from God knows where to run the length of the pitch to celebrate with scorer Shaunagh McCarthy. A great moment no doubt”.

Barbara: “Going to Cork City was not necessarily a huge step up. The training side of it was different because now we were training like professionals but I absolutely loved it. It was the best training I ever did under Niall O’Regan and I just wish I had done it 10 years earlier!”

Barbara: “I loved competing against better players on a more regular basis. Travelling to different grounds across the country was great and for my kids, Jesse and Alix, to see me play for City was a great feeling also. To think that three years after I finished with Cork City my daughter would sign for them was a bit surreal, and now five years down the line both the girls are playing, Alix with the 17s and Jesse with the seniors, so it’s great. Three of us got to play with Wilton, Cork and Cork City so I’m proud of that.”

Barbara’s role in football in Cork earned her a place on the female only UEFA B License course being run as part of the Women’s Football Strategic Plan by the FAI.

Barbara: “I did the UEFA B last year and it was a fantastic feeling to have completed it. I thoroughly enjoyed the course. It was tough at times, as there was a lot of assignments.

Barbara: “I made a lot of friends doing the course, some of whom would have been players I played against over the years and that maybe we wouldn’t have seen eye to eye, so it was great to meet in a different atmosphere, and at the end of the day, you realise that you actually had a lot in common with each other as any agro we may have had between each other over the years, really only came down to passion and a desire to win when on the pitch.

Barbara: “I love coaching and had the pleasure of coaching a lot of teams to a lot of success, most notably with Wilton girls. We dominated leagues for a number of years but more importantly it felt great to play a part in each child’s development as a player and as a person. I also managed Ballyphehane School to All Ireland victory and that was a memorable occasion as there were over 300 schools across the country entered and to win it was quite unbelievable”.

Barbara: “I completed the UEFA B with the dream of one day being able to manage a Men’s team if I want to and be known as a coach, as opposed to a women’s coach.”

Barbara: “The leadership for women programme is a brilliant idea. The development of female leaders within football is hugely important for the future of the game in this country.

Barbara: “The programme aims to provide female administrators with the tools, techniques and skills necessary for them to undertake senior positions efficiently and with greater confidence within Clubs, Leagues, Regional and National Committee level.”

Barbara: “Female participation in football is rapidly growing the world over, with more women now involved in the game at all levels. Having female football administrators is just as important, with research showing that gender balance at committee level has huge benefits to every organisation.”