Ladies coach Sheehan looks to topple holders Manchester City in FA Cup giant-killing
PUBLISHED: 13:30 14 February 2020
Local boy plots a great FA Cup shock for Ipswich against holders
Local football coach Joe Sheehan faces the biggest test of his sporting life as he takes his team to play Super League leaders Manchester City in the FA Cup this weekend.
At the age of just 31, Sheehan is showing what a prospect he is in the world of women's football at Ipswich Town.
And his young team will pit their wits against the FA Cup holders, who beat West Ham Women in last year's Wembley Stadium showpiece.
"I went to Abbs Cross school in Hornchurch, my mum Carol works at Benhurst Primary School in Elm Park and dad Bill is a retired fireman," he said.
"My aunts both work in local schools as well. Julie Bishop is at Eastbrook in Dagenham and Sue Marshall at Hylands Primary in Hornchurch," he added proudly.
"My partner Ebony went to Coopers and the Romford Recorder is my nan and granddad's favourite newspaper!"
Joe began his coaching career with a special session at Campion School in Hornchurch.
"I started coaching the boys, but I found I got more enjoyment out of coaching the girls and it just went on from there," he added.
"Essex run a Centre of Excellence for the county and I became a coach for them. I still do that on a part-time basis and help with their Regional Talent Centre."
In October 2017, Sheehan joined Ipswich as lead coach of the Women's Regional under-21 Academy set-up and has been integral to the growth of women's football at the Suffolk club.
And those youngsters make up the bulk of his squad since he took over first-team duties and they who will seek an upset in this weekend's clash.
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"Eight or nine players in the team are aged 16, 17 or 18 and many in the squad are youth internationals," he said. "We take the best young talent from the east of England and bring them together at Ipswich and it is working well."
The team are currently top of National League Division One South East, while their long FA Cup run has seen them beat Royston (7-0), Norwich City (6-1), Basildon (5-0), Chichester City (6-0), Portsmouth (1-0) and Huddersfield (4-1).
In that last game at the John Smith's Stadium, 16-year-old Maddie Biggs, who goes to Frances Bardsley Academy in Romford, scored a magnificent hat-trick.
"It has been a great run against some good teams, but playing Manchester City is on a different level," admitted Sheehan.
"But the thing about my team is they are all so confident, they have no fear going into any game and that could work to their advantage.
"We play in the same Academy League as the best clubs in the country and we have already beaten Manchester City this season.
"We don't know what sort of team they are going to pick for this game, but it would be great to come up against their big international players."
The match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday at City's Academy stadium, but Sheehan has ambitions beyond this weekend.
He travelled to Manchester on Wednesday to watch them play Bristol City in the Super League after their game with West Ham was called off last Sunday, as was Ipswich's league clash.
"I think if the West Ham match had been played, they may have rested a few against us, but now I think they will play a strong team," he said.
"They have a new manager in Alan Mahon after Nick Cushing went to New York, so it will be interesting to see if he makes any changes to the way they play." It's all in a day's work for the dedicated coach, who is ambitious for the future.
"I do want to carry on progressing in the women's game and prove what I can do, but for the moment I am happy at at Ipswich," he said.
"It will be astonishing if we can win, we can only dream and that is what the FA Cup is all about."