ONE TO WATCH Abbiegayle Ronayne from Irishtown is pictured in her Athlone Town kit.
WHEN The Mayo News spoke to Abbiegayle Ronayne last week, the 18-year-old was on the road home from a training session with the Athlone Town ladies team.
Either side of our conversation, the Mount St Michael Claremorris Leaving Cert student was studying for a test she was due to sit the next day.
Balancing books with a pair of goalkeeping gloves is not easy, she admits. However, with ambitions to study medicine after school, it is a task she is determined to rise to.
Before deciding to focus solely on soccer last year, the Irishtown teenager had impressed in a number of other codes.
As well as being a key figure on the Davitts and Mayo ladies Gaelic football teams, she was also a talented out-half during her time with the Claremorris Colts.
After first signing for Sligo Rovers, she then joined up with Galway United where she was part of an Under-17 side that won a league and cup double.
After making her debut for the senior team, she was called up to the Ireland Under-19 team.
Despite her tender years, Abbiegayle brings a fair amount of experience to an Athlone side which also has Kilmaine native Kelsey Munroe in their ranks.
While she is grateful to be allowed train as part of an ‘elite’ squad, Abbiegayle says that playing during Covid-19 restrictions has made it difficult to get to know her teammates.
“Usually, you’d have a day out to bond with the girls, we’ve missed that. We’re there training but it’s hard to get to know the girls outside of soccer training, which is difficult because you are training with them every week.
“You need to get that connection to know that you can trust each other on the pitch and that one will back you up if you get stuck in position or make a mistake,” she added.
“As a goalkeeper I need the support of the players on the pitch.
“The managers have been doing their best to get that bonding on the pitch, but it’s quite different…it’s a struggle to get to know them.”
In normal times, Abbiegayle Ronayne and her brothers would be rarely out of the Davitts GAA club gym.
And while she has access to the facilities at Athlone Town, she admits that her strength and conditioning isn’t where she would like it to be.
“I was in a really good place with gym work before lockdown,” she said.
“Myself and Josh and Jack used all go in to to use the club gym in Davitts and I was probably in the best physical condition of my life.
“It was tough going from having access to weights to having to use body weight. The motivation goes because you feel like you’re getting weaker. It’s been tough going. You think, ‘I’ll get back to where I left off,’ and then they close again.”
But for now the talented shot-stopper is determined to pursue her sporting and academic ambitions with equal dedication.
“I have medicine first on my CAO but if I don’t get it I’m not too worried. I’ll probably go ‘Biomed’ in maybe Dublin or Galway if I’m still interested, [my course] is definitely health-related.
“I’m trying to focus on football for now and see how far I can get, because I won’t get that time back again.”