Women in Belfast for Cham­pi­ons League test

McKenna has made im­me­di­ate im­pact on her trav­els

New Ross Standard - - SPORT - DEAN GOOD­I­SON

IF YOU rock up at Cur­r­a­cloe Beach on the rare sum­mer’s day when the mer­cury moves into the twen­ties, stroll down past Cul­leton’s Gap with­out that typ­i­cal, cut­ting sea breeze rip­ping your eye­lids off, and ar­rive at Raven’s Point alone, re­laxed and at peace, you feel like the luck­i­est per­son in the world.

Days don’t get bet­ter than that in Wex­ford, and if you live that af­ter­noon once a year you’re beat­ing most of the rest of the county.

In Hawaii, that’s known more com­monly as a nor­mal day. For ex­am­ple, in Kailua-Kona the low­est recorded tem­per­a­ture is 13 cel­sius, the high­est low of any city in the United States. It doesn’t get cold and coats are a fash­ion item.

To for­get the beau­ti­ful is­land life, to leave a lov­ing fam­ily and friends at home, to fly al­most 12,000 kilo­me­tres to the south-east of Ire­land to join Wex­ford Youths, it takes se­ri­ous in­ner strength. This is not the path of a nor­mal per­son, it’s the route of a dreamer.

McKenna David­son is a dreamer. Right now she lives her life never know­ing what the next move is. She knows there will be a des­ti­na­tion, there al­ways is, and things will work out ex­actly how they are sup­posed to, but she’s liv­ing for the now.

While that globetrotting life­style is glam­orous on the sur­face, scrape a lit­tle deeper and you get a clear pic­ture of how men­tally tough David­son is. Do­ing every­thing at her own ex­pense, do­ing it out of her com­fort zone, it’s a chal­lenge she has had to em­brace and it’s a sit­u­a­tion in which she has had to learn to grow.

‘I was liv­ing at home so I was al­ways with my fam­ily,’ she ex­plained. ‘When I wasn’t at home I was with friends, or even go­ing to the gym I would go with my best friends, so com­ing here and kind of be­ing by my­self all the time has been a dif­fi­cult tran­si­tion. If I’m be­ing hon­est like, it’s been hard not be­ing able to so­cialise.

‘I think it’s good in a way, it gives me a chance to be in­de­pen­dent for once. I feel like I’m al­ways with peo­ple and al­ways, I don’t know, not re­ly­ing on peo­ple, but def­i­nitely emo­tion­ally re­ly­ing on peo­ple.

‘So it’s nice to, not nice, but it will be a good grow­ing op­por­tu­nity to be by my­self, but yeah, it has been a hard time tran­si­tion­ing.’

David­son has slowly been get­ting to know her new col­leagues but it hasn’t been easy. She’s stay­ing in a rented room in Car­low, rec­om­mended by one of the Youths man­age­ment.

There was the pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing hosted by a team-mate, but in the end the lure of easy gym ac­cess was the de­cid­ing fac­tor for the girl who’s ‘ not obsessed with the gym but, I need to go, like, ev­ery day’.

With just two train­ing ses­sions a week and a game at week­ends, it’s a pro­cess that will take time. As each game goes by there’s vis­i­bly more of a bounce in David­son’s step. She seems to be en­joy­ing her­self and the bond­ing that goes with a week of Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball will only help.

Af­ter all, that com­pe­ti­tion was the big draw. There were some other op­por­tu­ni­ties.

David­son could have been lin­ing up op­po­site Youths in Fri­day’s game against Thor/KA, as there had been con­tact be­tween her agent and the Ice­landic club, but they wanted her to fly in for a trial with no guar­an­tee of sign­ing, a move that made no sense when trav­el­ling all the way from Hawaii.

Then there was Shel­bourne, the ‘evil em­pire’ up the N11. The ri­valry that is de­vel­op­ing be­tween the sides cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing the top two spots in the Con­ti­nen­tal Tyres Women’s Na­tional League is a beau­ti­ful thing and it’s badly needed to push this league for­ward. Teams sim­ply need to re­spect but dis­like each other.

David­son was in con­tact with man­age­ment at the north Dublin side, and they have the draw of the city life which was enough to re­cently at­tract Malinda Allen and pre­vi­ously Glo­ria Dou­glas from State­side. It wasn’t enough to steal David­son’s heart though.

‘The girls were like “we’re so glad you didn’t go there” (to Shel­bourne), not be­cause they hate them or any­thing, just be­cause it wouldn’t have been the same ex­pe­ri­ence. Cham­pi­ons League def­i­nitely was a big sell­ing point, just be­cause it’s a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity,’ she ad­mit­ted.

It will be the big­gest foot­balling stage to date for the Hawai­ian. She started kick­ing a ball as a fouryear-old back in Kailua-Kona but had to fly to O’ahu to find a club to meet the tal­ent level that the young star­let was show­ing.

‘When I was young, like maybe Un­der-10, when I was eight or nine, I would just cry af­ter the game be­cause I would just tell my mom “I can’t do every­thing by my­self!” She would just be like “it’s okaaaayyy”. I think that’s when I was like, okay, I’m good at this, I can pur­sue this, es­pe­cially hav­ing the sup­port from my mom and dad.’

David­son con­tin­ued to im­prove through high school where ‘there was six of us that kind of held the team to­gether and the other ones were kind of just there for the ride’. There were dif­fer­ent col­lege op­por­tu­ni­ties but she chose to fol­low her sis­ter to Pa­cific Univer­sity.

‘I couldn’t de­cide where I wanted to go and my sis­ter was at Pa­cific so my par­ents said just go for a year and if you want to trans­fer you can trans­fer. So I went and wanted to trans­fer and ended up stay­ing.

‘I don’t know, I just kind of got stuck there. I don’t re­gret it or any­thing, it was a re­ally good aca­demic univer­sity and I got to play and I don’t know, it was okay,’ she said.

Col­lege life came with a se­mes­ter at the Univer­sity of Lim­er­ick in her fi­nal year. David­son thought her col­le­giate soc­cer ca­reer was over but she soon dis­cov­ered that she could play here in Ire­land. Not only did she play but she ended up be­ing ‘player of the match’ in the col­leges fi­nal and she picked up the ‘in­ter­na­tional player of the year’ award.

She made such an im­pres­sion that the Ire­land Un­der-19 man­age­ment were des­per­ately scram­bling to find out who she was, but to their dis­ap­point­ment they dis­cov­ered that she was 21 and Amer­i­can. David­son went back to the States and bounced around with a few semi-pro clubs. She played in Chat­tanooga in Ten­nessee, then she went to Seattle be­fore trans­fer­ring down to Fresno in Cal­i­for­nia.

Miss­ing home and fed up of the Women’s Premier Soc­cer League, David­son went back to Hawaii for a year but even­tu­ally her ad­ven­tur­ous side won her over. Ire­land wasn’t her first choice des­ti­na­tion.

‘I had al­ready been here and I felt like I wanted to ex­plore and be some­where else just for the ex­pe­ri­ence’, but it be­came the most vi­able op­tion.

Wex­ford Youths coach Jamie Buck­ley saw David­son play while she was at U.L. and she had clearly made an im­pres­sion. The Fer­rycar­rig Park side were in­ter­ested but it still came down to David­son be­ing able to dip into her sav­ings to make it hap­pen. Dreams, it seems, don’t come cheap.

De­spite play­ing at a per­sonal cost to her­self, there was still trou­ble for David­son when ar­riv­ing here.

Ev­i­dently Ir­ish im­mi­gra­tion couldn’t fig­ure out that any­one will­ing to give up the Hawai­ian life for Car­low town is clearly on a mis­sion and not try­ing to ma­nip­u­late the sys­tem. It seems when you are in the busi­ness of soul­lessly deny­ing dreams for a pat on the back, blind­ness is in your na­ture.

The club and David­son are fight­ing to get the 30 days she was granted, in­stead of the 90 she was en­ti­tled to as an Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, over­turned.

It was not fully re­solved at the time of writ­ing but the player her­self is try­ing to stay pos­i­tive de­spite the un­nec­es­sary stress.

It’s the ex­cite­ment of be­ing here, of ready­ing her­self for the big­gest foot­balling week of her life, that’s keep­ing David­son pos­i­tive. She knows that Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball is a huge deal, a shop win­dow for some­one look­ing for a pro­fes­sional club, but it’s still all new to her.

‘I’ve heard of all the teams that we’re play­ing against but I don’t know, like, are they good, are they de­cent, what’s the story with that,’ ad­mit­ted David­son, ‘so I have been ask­ing them (her team­mates) what they thought and ev­ery­body I’ve asked says “yeah, look it’s go­ing to be tough com­pe­ti­tion but we have a chance”.

‘The vibe that I’ve been get­ting from the girls is very op­ti­mistic and con­fi­dent so I think that’s re­ally gonna be key go­ing in, keep­ing the mo­men­tum of the sea­son go­ing and hav­ing that con­fi­dence in each other and know­ing we are a good squad, it should be ex­cit­ing.

‘I am ex­cited, like I said, it’s a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity for me any­way, es­pe­cially com­ing from Hawaii you would never get this op­por­tu­nity, I don’t think any­body else has ever so I’m look­ing for­ward to it.’

The last few days for David­son have been about nurs­ing a re­cur­ring quad in­jury she picked up soon af­ter ar­riv­ing. She’s been keep­ing busy at the gym, dis­cov­er­ing ex­cit­ing places in Car­low like ‘the river’ and get­ting to grips with an on­line course she has signed up to com­plete.

Her view­ing habits have also changed but not too much. ‘Net­flix here is dif­fer­ent from the States, did you know that? They wouldn’t have the same shows that we have in the States, some yeah, but not all.

‘Since I have so much free time on my hands I just started watch­ing this new show ‘Power’ and it’s su­per good. A lot of the girls have talked about ‘Love Is­land’. I’ve never seen it be­fore but I don’t have any in­ter­est in watch­ing it.’

It’s hardly sur­pris­ing that fak­e­ness is not some­thing that in­ter­ests David­son, as she’s about the here, the now, the liv­ing life how she wants to live it. She wants to fol­low her own path, do her own thing.

The next step­ping stone is Cham­pi­ons League, then it’s to help Wex­ford win as much as pos­si­ble this sea­son.

Af­ter that, not even McKenna is sure what’s around the cor­ner and that’s just fine with her.

McKenna David­son (cen­tre) on the bench in Kilkenny last week with Becky Con­roy and Becky Cassin.

Wex­ford’s new ar­rival on the move af­ter her in­tro­duc­tion dur­ing the 6-0 win in Kilkenny.

McKenna David­son pic­tured in Fer­rycar­rig Park.

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