'Coming to the Boyle'

October 21, 2023

Roscommon's Roisin Wynne with teammate Aisling Hanly. ©INPHO/Tom Maher.

By Daire Walsh

While their male compatriots are looking to bridge a 96-year gap this weekend, the Boyle ladies footballers created their own piece of history in Ballyforan last Saturday.

In their very first year at the grade – having secured the intermediate crown in the county a little over 12 months ago – Boyle claimed the Roscommon LGFA senior championship title with a sensational 3-8 to 2-4 triumph over previous champions Clann na nGael.

Although it is their second successive appearance in a decider, the Boyle men’s footballers will be looking to get their hands on a first Roscommon SFC trophy since 1927 when they take on St Brigid’s at Dr Hyde Park tomorrow.

There is certainly plenty of inspiration that this side can take from the Boyle women, who lost back-to-back intermediate finals in 2020 and 2021 before eventually sealing the second-tier title in October 2022.

In their against-the-odds victory at the expense of Clann na nGael seven days ago, inter-county star Roisin Wynne produced a player of the match display from centre half-back. Despite playing down her own contribution to the win, there is no underestimating how significant Boyle’s remarkable rise through the ladies football ranks is proving to be at local level.

“It just happened to be me that day, but it could have been absolutely anyone. All year there has been girls keeping us over the line. I think that was definitely one thing that stood to us this year, that we didn’t rely on any one player ever in any game. We felt we had such depth in the team that it didn’t matter if there was one or two girls missing,” Wynne said.

“We can see it in training, there are more and more young girls coming up to us, which is great because we’ve definitely suffered from drop-off with young girls in the past. Just retaining players has definitely improved.

“We’ve always had great supporters, but definitely in the past couple of years we’ve really felt the town getting behind us and we’ve had lovely messages from people. Lovely signs and the town is absolutely kitted out. The lads are out this Sunday as well. It’s great for both teams and great for the town.”

There isn’t a huge amount of respite for Boyle, however, as Vincent Flanagan's outfit pay a visit to Leitrim’s Glencar/Manorhamilton in a Connacht senior club championship quarter-final tomorrow (throw-in 11am). The prize on offer for the winner is a provincial semi-final meeting with current All-Ireland champions Kilkerrin/Clonberne, though Wynne is trying not to look that far ahead for the time being.

“I think the Kilkerrin/Clonberne girls, they’re an inspiration in themselves. I think we would just die to play in the same game as them, we’d be delighted. Definitely that’s a very, very distant thought. We’re just about coming round now to Sunday, never mind whatever happens after that.

“I know a few of the Glencar/Manorhamilton girls from playing Leitrim, but also we played Manor in a challenge a couple of years ago now. I remember being super impressed with them, so we’ll absolutely put our heads down and give it everything.”

Throughout Boyle’s journey to becoming the top team in Roscommon, Wynne has been joined by her sister Saoirse. A goalscorer against Clann na nGael last weekend, this year saw her replicating elder sibling Roisin in becoming a regular starter for the Rossies at inter-county level.

This included an appearance in Division Two of the Lidl National Football League against Westmeath, for whom their father Gary served as a selector. In addition to her prowess as a footballer, Saoirse is also a gifted equestrian star and has represented Ireland in the Mounted Games Association World Championships.

This had made it difficult for her to commit to the Roscommon cause in recent years, but a certain set of circumstances meant she was able to play for them on a consistent basis in the 2023 season.

“We just got lucky this year because her pony is actually injured so she could spend a lot more time with us! We were just delighted to have her. It stood to her as well, she got more games under her belt and could back herself a bit more. She’s a main player for both teams now,” Roisin said of her sister.

“Myself and Saoirse, we were both in university in Galway there together last year as well. We’ve had pretty much the exact same schedule. It has brought us very close together.”

Wynne’s sister isn’t alone when it comes to multi-sport exponents in the Rossies panel as promising Irish amateur boxer Lisa O’Rourke is also part of the current set-up. Since winning a gold medal at the World Championships in Istanbul in May of last year, the light middleweight has featured in 12 competitive encounters for her native county.

“She is just phenomenal. I just don’t know how she keeps going. She is an absolute work horse and the most loveliest, humblest person you would ever meet. She is just an absolute superstar and she is a great inspiration to us.

“I know anytime we see her on the pitch, it gives us a boost. I’m always so grateful she’s still playing with us every match we get her. She’s brilliant.”

Up until a few months ago, Wynne had spent the majority of her time on the Roscommon panel — she made her debut against Offaly in 2018 — as a student at University of Galway. After completing a Bachelor of Science course in 2021, she returned to the same college a year later to become a Masters of Health Economics student.

Since finishing up with the latter in the summer, she has been on a placement with global healthcare company Novartis at their base in south Dublin. While she isn’t certain at the moment what direction her career will head in — and if it will lead to a long commute to club and/or inter-county training — Wynne is ready for whatever comes her way.

“The team that I’m working with are so lovely. I’m with them now for another couple of months. We’ll see after that what happens,” Wynne added.

“I know it was even tough on girls for both teams, Roscommon and Boyle, this year. We had a lot of girls in Dublin and we were kind of cartwheeling from Galway. Absolutely it does make a difference, but it’s all worth it in the end, wherever you are travelling from.”

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