Ramona Keogh Interview by Dylan O’Connell

The Gaelic football heartlands of the Kingdom of Kerry is not a place where you would expect to find a thriving soccer scene bursting with talent.

At Killarney Celtic and through the Kerry Schoolboys/ Girls League and District League, Ramona Keogh has seen the county transformed into a hotbed of footballing talent.

From playing soccer with Celtic at underage level to watching Listowel Celtic’s ladies team winning the FAI Junior Cup, the UEFA B License student, who is also on the FAI Women’s Leadership Program, has seen this transformation first hand.

Ramona: “I started playing as a child with Killarney Celtic,” she told Pro-Scout 3.

Ramona: “At the time the club didn’t have their own clubhouse or pitch. We played in a field behind Fitzgearld Stadium. I would watch the local bus pick up the kids from nearby estates to drop them off to play soccer with Killarney Celtic. I progressed through the club playing on both male and female teams. I won a lot of leagues and competitions and when I was seventeen, I transferred to Listowel Celtic FC.”

Ramona: “In 2000 I went to America to play football. I played in a massive tournament over in Springfield Illinois and got injured. I tried to go back playing but I couldn’t.”

Ramona: “I have always been interested in analysing games. Brian McCarthy, who worked for the FAI, asked me to do the FAI camps in Kerry. I then went in to do my FAI Youth Cert with Noel O’Reilly in 2001. After that I was asked to help with the Kerry Kennedy Cup team. We did very well that season with an exciting team. From there, I fell in love with coaching.”

Ramona: “Soccer in Kerry has been growing in popularity over the last number of years. You just have to look at the attendances at the friendlies Cork City Women’s & Men’s had when they played friendlies in Kerry.”

My local GAA club, Dr. Crokes, they are a conveyer belt of talent onto Kerry Gaelic football teams and have won a number of Munster and club All Irelands in recent years. A lot of the really good soccer players in Kerry would have had to make a decision.” We have been lucky in Kerry that some players have decided to continue to play both.

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

Ramona: “I started the course last year and the time has flown by. Last month was the deadline for my assessment and everything had to be sent in, the rest of the blocks have been postponed over the lockdown. I’m working through it with the lockdown at the moment and concentrating on completing the course.”

Ramona: “I have spent the lockdown watching old football matches studying transitions into attack and defense. I’m really starting to look at the game differently.”

Ramona: “In the last few blocks, I got to listen to Vera Pauw, Robbie Keane, Stephen Rice, and Pearl Slattery. On the course I have listened to elite level professionals talk about all aspects of the game.”

In addition to completing an elite level qualification, Ramona is busy completing the FAI Women’s Emerging Leadership Program.

Ramona: “This is the first course of its kind run in Ireland set up in partnership with FIFA and UEFA and I have to say, I’m really enjoying it. There’s about thirty women from all different football backgrounds on the course. We have had guest speakers and presentations on the female side of the game. We have covered areas on management styles, managing change, conflict and communication.

Ramona: “If you’re female and knowledgeable about the game, some people would try and push you out because they see you as a threat. We have been taught how to deal with that and work through it.”

Ramona: “We have all spoke about what we would like to see football become in Ireland. We also talked about what we are going to bring back to our club or league.”

Ramona: “The week before lockdown I was in Tallaght Stadium for the Republic of Ireland women’s game against Greece. There was a great crowd and great atmosphere. There was a huge young support for the Girls in Green that night. Irish women’s soccer is in such a good place at the moment.”

Ramona: “Listowel Celtic’s ladies team winning the FAI Junior Cup brought a great profile to the game in Kerry. A huge crowd travelled from all over Kerry to the final.

I am very grateful for the coaching journey I have taken in last few years and I am very lucky to have great mentors like Niall O’Regan, Tom O’Shea and David Lenane. On my UEFA B License, it was also great to have Pearl Slattery as my mentor and I have learnt so much from her.

Ramona: “The FAI are running some great initiatives for girls. They are very proactive with getting girls to play the game. Just look at the free FAI Easter Soccer Camps. Everything is moving in the right direction.”