Nomination for prestigious  F.A.I. award for all-rounder Aoife

Aoife centre at Bob Docherty Cup Under 15 Girls International Tournament Held in Spain April 2019 with her family from left Johnny Neenan, Darragh Cronin, Emer Cronin, Mark Cronin, Ann Cronin and Mary Neenan

By Matt O’Callaghan
A young Kilmallock soccer star has been shortlisted for a prestigious ‘Three’ FAI International Award. This is the 30th year of the Awards and celebrates the performances of players in the previous international season.
Aoife Cronin, a student at Scoil Pól, Kilfinane is one of three shortlisted for the Under-15 Women’s Schools International Player of the Year along with Ellen Molloy, Present-ation Secondary School, Kilkenny, and Jessie Stapleton, Palmerstown Community School.
16 year old Aoife is an all-round sportsperson and has scaled sporting heights not just at soccer but also at camogie and swimming.
Aoife comes from a very strong sporting lineage, dad Mark was a sterling full back for Kilmallock hurlers and has county medals to show for it while granddad Johnny Neenan strutted his stuff on the hurling stage as a free scoring forward with Dromin-Athlacca, Kilmallock and Limerick.
Aoife’s soccer career commenced as a raw six year old with Kilmallock United. At the time, sports mad Aoife tried to combine soccer with camogie and swimming. She had being doing swimming lessons from a very young age before progressing to Limerick Swimming Club where she progressed up to Division 2 in the Irish age groups.
Trying to keep soccer and swimming going was proving difficult “It was decision time for her when she had to decide if she would keep going with swimming and five or six sessions a week and at that point she said, “I love camogie and soccer” and there was not room for everything, so soccer and camogie took preference and swimming went by the wayside,” her mum Emer revealed.
“Aoife is a qualified lifeguard and has completed first aid training. She still uses swimming for recovery, she has not gone too far from it but no longer at a competitive level,” Emer added.
Having started her soccer career at the age of six, Aoife learned lots from the likes of Joe McCormack who was her main coach but had to decide over a year ago that she needed to move to Regional United as Emer explained “It came to a stage where girls of her age were pulling out of sports and there was difficulty in fielding teams and Aoife wanted to persevere with her soccer career. She had known girls from the Gaynor Cup team and she knew people at Regional United and wanted to keep playing and she had played with some of the girls at the Emerging Talent Programme with Munster.
“She spent last season with Regional United and has now moved to Treaty United and the opportunity to be part of the National Women’s Under 17 League.
“She had just joined Regional United when she won her first Under 15 cap for the Republic of Ireland against Northern Ireland in Armagh a game that ended scoreless after being played out in atrocious conditions. It was a very proud day to be putting on the Ireland jersey,” Emer said.
From there it was off to Spain for Aoife and the prestigious annual Bob Docherty Cup International Tournament involving all the Home Nations along with Gibraltar.
They game against England in the Tournament is also for the John Read Cup and the Republic Ireland beat England on that occasion and Aoife scored her first international goal in normal time and a second in a penalty shoot-out. The Republic of Ireland won the Tournament and the Bob Docherty Cup to accompany the John Read Cup won in the game against England.
Earlier this year, Aoife won her first cap at under 16 level in a friendly against England in Bishopstown in London and like in Spain, Aoife again found the England net. Involvement with Ireland under 16 was drastically curtailed because of the Covid outbreak but since the easing of restrictions, the young star has been called up for the Republic of Ireland at under 17 level and is due to commence training with them this week.
The Kilmallock girl, who has one brother, Darragh, is delighted to have now teamed up with Treaty United as her proud mum said “The opportunity to play at the highest level for her age group with the girls that are competing at the top level in the National League across the whole country is great. We are looking forward to the start of the season which opens with a game against Carlow-Kilkenny on 16th August. Irene Hehir is manager of the under 17 side and Dave Rooney is the manager of the Treaty United senior side.”
Aoife has lined out with Kilmallock Camogie club since she was under 10. She has won an All-Ireland Schools Junior camogie medal with Scoil Pól Kilfinane two years ago under the guidance of Noreen Bluett, Sr. Patricia and Sarah Collins. Aoife is finding it difficult to keep playing soccer and camogie presently so the former is getting preference and it involves being out four days a week. Camogie is very close to her heart and she does not want to completely turn her back on it but she does not have the time to commit at the moment.
Aoife also had a short stint with Kilmallock A.C. and represented Kilmallock in the Community Games where she won a medal for the Long Puck.
Speaking this week on her shortlisting for the prestigious award, Aoife said “I cannot believe it, I was on the way home in the car with my nana and few people had texted me that I was nominated. It was actually Jessie Stapleton, who is also nominated, who told me, that is how I found out.”
It was very special to don the green jersey of the Republic of Ireland, “There is nothing like putting on an Ireland jersey, I have been very lucky, the Gaynor Cup is big one and I got to know people in the city and I was lucky to be put forward. ”
Plans for celebrations? “I haven’t but my grandfather is over the moon, he is going around telling everyone about me.”