DLR Waves Catherine Cronin expects teams in the Women's National League to be straining at the leash for competitive action after "the longest pre-season we've ever had".

The league - which was supposed to kick off in March - will finally begin in the second week of August.

A tweak to the structure means the fixture list will be split, with the first series of games being part of Phase One, where every team will face off against each other once.

In Phase Two, the division will be separated into two sections: the top four will face off against each other and the bottom five will  square off in a round of games.

DLR Waves captain Cronin, a nurse in St Vincent's Hospital, is just happy to see the games return.

"Thankfully the [Covid-19] numbers are looking good for the moment," she told the RTÉ Soccer Podcast.

"We'll see how it goes now over the next few weeks.

"We had a busy enough schedule over the last few weeks to try and keep us fit, keep us on the right track. I was able to tip away and do my own bits. It's much better now being back with the girls kind of getting that team atmosphere going again.

"We're back training since last week. We've kind of been joking saying it's been the longest pre-season we've ever had. We're all really looking forward to getting back. Obviously we've been following the guidelines from the FAI... so things are a little bit different: training, checking temperatures, trying to follow the hand hygiene and things like that as best we can. It's definitely good to be back training.

"We're due to be back in the second week of August so we're counting down to then really."

Cronin works in the Radiology Department in St Vincent's. She feared the league would not be able to return at all as the pandemic escalated in the spring and early summer but the FAI's confirmation of its return last week was a welcome lift.

The association also revealed that affiliation fees will be waived, a participation grant will be provided to clubs, prize money will be spread out equally, and there will be funds available to ensure all teams can upgrade their grounds to follow safety protocols.

"The fact that each team is getting that bit of support to ensure that everyone is able to participate is brilliant."

The FAI are also going to supply a special Covid-19 Assistance Grant to help each of the clubs who will have suffered financial losses.

"There would have been a bit of a scare as to whether the league was going to run or not obviously depending on how Covid was going," Cronin added.

"Thankfully it's a safe enough level that we can even be thinking about playing in the league. The fact that each team is getting that bit of support to ensure that everyone is able to participate is brilliant.

"The thought of not having the season at all was very disappointing so I think whatever way they can create a safe and suitable format for the league I'm happy to participate in really.

"We usually play everyone three times so this [changed format] is just cutting down one round of matches but if it keeps the league going and gives us a good runout I'm more than happy to try it out.

"Before the league breaks into two phases we hope we're going to be in the top section of it. That's the goal, to do our very best from that and try and get as much as we can out of every game. 

"Having had such a break people are really going to relish it and not take for granted all these matches, really try and get the most out of them." 

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