A SPORTS team from York who featured in the FA Cup and were promoted from their league in the same season has been nominated for an award.

York RI Ladies Football Team have been put forward for the Sports Person/Team of the Year award in the York Community Pride Awards 2024.

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The team is one of several under the York Railway Institute AFC umbrella, the football club which plays its matches in New Lane, Holgate.

Dean Cairns, 39, a primary school teacher from Acomb and former York City Ladies full back Kira Lewis, are manager and coach of the ladies first team, and spoke to The Press about their season.

Dean said: “I think the performance in the FA Cup was such a huge step forward with what we’ve tried to do with the club.

We’ve gone from playing in the North Riding League, to stepping up a level.

“To see our name on Sky Sports News, or the BBC Sport website, in the first-round proper of the FA Cup was surreal and such a big thing for the club.”

After three qualifying-round games which began in September, the name of York Railway Institute Women FC was in the hat along with established clubs like Derby County, Hull City and Chesterfield Ladies – who have connections with the legacy men’s football league teams and their infrastructure.

'You've had a cracking season, you don't owe us anything'

Dean said most of the £10,000 prize money they collected en route to their ultimate defeat at the hands of Stockport County, who were two leagues above them, has been used for new goalposts and kits for the teams and other necessities for the club.

He added: “When we played Hartlepool away in the cup we managed to pay for a coach to travel as a team rather than six different people going at different times in their cars.”

Club volunteers said that there are over 150 girls playing junior football at York RI and their horizons have been lifted by the team, with a true sense of some being like local heroes to those coming up through the ranks.

The team’s success helped with internal promotion too.

Kira said: “The club started advertising our games more, they started making a big deal of us and we got loads of people down to watch and it provided a really nice atmosphere.”

The club also won promotion to the North East Regional Women’s Football League Premier Division, the fifth level in the women’s football pyramid leading to the Women’s Super League.

The cup runs – the team also reached the semi-finals of the league up – led to a fixture pile-up towards the end of the league season which Kira said the team responded to brilliantly.

She said: “The morale clicked and they took the pressure in their strides – we took a bit off them and we said, ‘look, we’ve got this many league games left, just enjoy it with your mates, you’ve had a cracking season, you don’t owe us anything'."

Dean said: “The way the girls cam together at the end of the season – we had six games to play in four-and-a-half-weeks and got to the last three needing seven points and we got them.

“The thing for us is that we’re punching a long way above our weight.

“As much as the RI is a big grass roots club, compared to those we’re going to face next season, we’ve got a long way to go, but this doesn’t bother the girls who want to go on and make another statement.

But the future looks bright as Dean said there are 16-year-olds coming through the club from it’s Under-Nines and the duo are aiming to get a natural run from under-6s through to the first XI Ladies team.

Dean said: “We have girls striving to find out when they can play for the adults.

“The club do a good job with the structure and understand the differences we need to make to the structure.”