Trinity students have enjoyed a long history of association with a wide variety of career fields. International-level soccer, particularly for women, is admittedly a newer one among those, but that fact has not yet curtailed the ambitions of final-year Trinity student, Sadhbh Doyle.
Doyle is one of Ireland’s up and coming players, a 23 year old Galway native and student of the School of Dental Science, who plays for Peamount United. Peamount has been making great strides as a team this year, having recorded their biggest match attendance in their history on November 13, presumably a nod to the Irish national team’s recent foray to the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time. Another mark of their skill is the fact that the Dublin club has only lost one of their last five games.
Another impressive feat for Doyle was when she won the SSE Airtricity Women’s Player of the Month in May of this year. Previously speaking to the Football Association of Ireland on her win, she commented “It’s really nice to win the Player of the Month award, I think it’s just a reflection of how well Peamount are doing this season. Personally, it’s really nice to get recognition from the League, so yeah I’m delighted.”
In the same video, she expressed her support for the increased exposure of women’s soccer in Ireland. “I remember I was playing football in the park a couple of weeks ago and these young kids came to play with us and I was asking him who their favourite player was and they all said Katie McCabe, which before this year, that would’ve never happened, so I think the exposure of the World Cup has been huge to develop the game here in Ireland for the girls.”
Given her talent, it was a real gift to DU Ladies AFC when Doyle played with them before moving to Peamount in 2020. She also played with Galway Women’s Football Club, having spent a year at NUI Galway and being a native of the county, before going to Trinity.
Playing with Galway was a big commitment as Doyle would balance dentistry with playing for Trinity, all the while commuting back to her hometown to play with the Connaught side. Despite this demanding schedule, in the 2018-2019 season, she helped Galway WFC to a fourth place in the Women’s National League.
The demanding nature of Trinity’s dentistry degree and the corresponding commitment that Doyle is required to show to it truly makes her athletic achievements all the more impressive. From the third year of their studies, Dental Science students are required to source their own patients and act “as their own receptionists” in terms of managing their workdays in the Dental Hospital, as well as treating them in what is effectively a 9-5 workday. On top of this, the students are assessed practically via “competencies” and “clinics” throughout the year, and while passing grades are required in these in order to progress to the next year, grades received don’t count towards their final marks – this relies wholly on their end-of-year exams. This pressure ruled Doyle out of playing in certain matches during Peamount’s campaign in the inaugural All Island Cup last summer, a competition that involves women’s teams from Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Additionally, Doyle’s fellow students are quick to praise her character, labelling her as “so nice” and “…lovely to be around”. The intense constraints on her time as an elite soccer player have also not stopped her from staying firmly integrated into the tight-knit community that the School of Dentistry is known for, including joining in on a course skiing holiday last winter.
Trinity has not let Doyle’s impressive record and commitment go unrecognised, and in that vein was elected a Sports Scholar of College for the 2019/20, 2020/21, and 2021/22 academic years, before becoming a Trevor West Scholar (awarded to “exceptional athletes who have shown outstanding contribution to sport at Trinity and engagement with their relevant club”) for 2022/23. More recently, she has also been nominated for the SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division Player of the Year along with Erin McLaughlin, who just returned from the Nations League Campaign.
Being a Peamount player could mean a great future for Doyle. Eileen Gleeson, the interim coach of the Irish women’s national team included her Peamount compatriot McLaughlin in her successful Nations League campaign which saw Ireland get promoted to the A League, giving them a chance at qualifying for the Euros. Given Doyle’s successful playing year with Peamount, perhaps she will have a bigger role with Ireland in years to come.
Doyle has already represented the Republic of Ireland at the U17 and U19 level. Some highlights of her career for Ireland include the World University Games in Naples, Italy where Ireland faced up against prominent teams such as Brazil and South Korea.
At U17 level, she reached the European Finals along with seven other national teams. Before this Ireland had topped their group in the qualifiers. This tournament included matches against major sides such as England, Norway and the Netherlands.
Her prowess playing for her country did not go unnoticed as shown when she won the Three Ireland-sponsored FAI U19 International Player of the Year Award for 2019.
In a previous interview, she told the University Times about her experience playing at international level. “It’s just when you play against teams like the Netherlands and Spain: it’s such a step up, it’s crazy. They are just so technically good and so hard to mark – it’s such a learning curve because they’d be training everyday with the likes of Barcelona, so it just shows you what level you can strive to be at.”
In the same interview, on the prospect of playing for the senior Ireland squad, she added, “It’s quite hard, because more and more now if you want to make that jump you have to think about turning professional. But when you want to get a degree as well, it’s difficult to balance and get everything right.”
Doyle’s ability and achievements at both underage and adult level borne in mind, we are left with the question of could we see the Trinity starlet on the Euro or World Cup stage anytime soon? Her future may have been solidified at the recent SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division awards ceremony, a glittering affair that saw Doyle and many fellow Dublin-based players dominate proceedings. Not only did she receive a coveted spot on the Team of the Year along with Peamount teammates Niamh Reid-Burke, Jetta Berrill, captain Karen Duggan, and Ireland international Erin McLaughlin, but Doyle was also crowned Women’s Premier Division Player of the Year. A serious accolade to receive at such a young age, yet a fitting testament to the gifted performances on the pitch that were exhibited with aplomb all season long, it may well be only a case of “when” rather than “if” the call-up for senior international duty comes.
The Awards were furthermore a night of great success for Peamount as a whole, even accepting Doyle’s limelight. As mentioned, four other players also made it onto the Team of the Year, including goalkeeper Reid-Burke who also received the Bank of Ireland Golden Gloves award for her prowess between the posts. Manage James O’Callaghan also received the Manager of the Year Award, while club administrators Katie Thompson, Chairperson, and Elaine Harrington, Secretary, were presented with special awards for Services to Women’s Football. The sweep came as Peamount claimed their first league title since 2020 and only the fourth in the club’s history since its founding in 1983.