Still working out for Smyth


SPORTSWOMEN OF THE MONTH:“IT’S WORKED out quite well,” said Emma Smyth when asked to review her sporting year, her laughter confirming that she’d somewhat understated the success enjoyed by both her, on a personal level, and her club, Railway Union, in the last 12 months.

The Loreto Abbey Dalkey old-girl has been with Railway since she was six. “My parents met at the club, so if I joined anyone else I’d probably be disowned,” she said. She remembers “losing a lot” over the years, “I think we lost 10-0 to Loreto once,” but under the guidance of Mick McKinnon and his assistant Una McCarthy Railway have developed a serious winning habit.

Smyth had lost count of the number of times Railway had been beaten by Ballymoney whenever the teams were paired in the cup, so it was with some trepidation that she and her colleagues travelled north last weekend for their Irish Hockey League meeting with their bogey team.

Railway put paid to the jinx in some style, winning the game 4-1, their cricket internationals Cecelia and Isobel Joyce scoring a goal each. (They have another ‘all-rounder’ of note in their ranks, Emer Dillon, a four-time All-Ireland winner with the Cork camogie team).

It was the team’s 11th game of the season – and their 11th win. Forty goals scored and just four conceded, with six of those victories coming against clubs that have qualified for the IHL – clubs, that is, ranked in the top 12 in the country. And they also beat Irish Senior Cup holders UCD in the Leinster League.

November was an especially impressive month for the club, the highlights their defeat of Hermes in the Irish Senior Cup, in which Smyth got the winner with a sublime chip over the goalkeeper, and their 3-0 victory over Munster champions Cork Harlequins in the IHL.

Those ‘stats’ add to what has been a simply outstanding year for the club which, back in March, won the first Leinster League women’s title in its history – a history that dates back to 1904. It was the first time since 1997 that the league wasn’t won by Loreto or Hermes.

The title was sealed with a 2-1 victory over UCD, Smyth scoring the winner with a marvellous reverse-stick strike, on the same day she was called up to the senior international squad.

Since then the 24-year-old has established herself in the Irish side, winning 16 more caps since her debut against England in April. In August she helped the team to a fifth place finish at the European Championships in Amsterdam, equalling their highest ever placing in the tournament. Next April she will be part of the squad that heads to Chile for their World Cup Qualifier.

“Between club and country it’s five nights a week training at the moment. But it’s been great, I’ve loved every minute of it. Railway’s success last season, and the start we’ve had to this season, has been a real confidence boost for us all,” said Smyth. “I think a lot of that success is down to Mick, who has been fantastic for us.”

A respiratory scientist, dividing her time between St Vincent’s and St Michael’s hospitals in Dublin, Smyth ran out of holidays in August, so there’ll be no putting the feet up any time soon. “I’ll cope,” she laughs.

Monthly awards so far: January: Jessica Kurten (Equestrian). February: Mary Cullen (Athletics). March: Nina Carberry (Horse racing) and Derval O’Rourke (Athletics). April: Leona Maguire (Golf). May: Lisa Maguire (Golf). June: Katie Taylor (Boxing). July: Ciara Mageean (Athletics) and Grainne Murphy (Swimming). August: Olive Loughnane (Athletics). September: Madeline Perry (squash) and Mary O’Connor (Camogie and Gaelic football). October: Yvonne Tracy (Soccer). November: Emma Smyth (Hockey).

Each sportswoman is eligible for just one monthly award in 2009 but her achievements through the year will be taken into account by the judges when the decision on the overall winner is made.