It has been quite a 12 months for Jessica Ziu.
Not only has she played her way into Vera Pauw's plans, making her full international debut in the 11-0 win over Georgia last November, but she also made a big change in her career at club level.
The 20-year old signed a contract at West Ham early in the year, before linking up with the club for pre-season in recent times. Having starred at Shelbourne throughout her teens, this is her first venture into full-time professional football.
That is quite an adjustment to make.
Jessica Ziu opens up on West Ham adjustment
Moving to a professional regiment is not something that is easy to do. You train harder and more often, and while you do not have to worry about making a living away from the game, it certainly takes a toll on the body.
There are also changes off the pitch to deal with. That is especially true for someone moving away from their family and to a foreign country for the first time.
Speaking to the media ahead of Ireland's game against Finland on Thursday night, Jessica Ziu admitted that the adjustment has been a difficult one. However, she is thrilled to be finally be fulfilling a lifelong dream.
It’s been brilliant. It’s been my dream since I started playing. I finally got it and I don’t think I could be at a better club than West Ham. It felt like home from the first day there...
The load is way more. Everything is much harder over there. For me personally, it was just physically. Mentally, I felt like I was pretty well [equipped]. I could keep up with everything, I loved it, it’s all I wanted to do, be a pro.
Physically, sometimes, my body is taking too much of the load. I’m a big home bird, but I wasn’t even thinking about home when I was there. I just felt like I was at home with all the girls. Physically, my body had taken a big toll, but I’m getting there slowly. I feel like I’m adapting now...
I think what makes it tougher too is I don’t drive. So it is kind of tough to get around. I didn’t know how to cook, I didn’t know how to do anything, because I had my parents at home to do all that for me.
But now I am actually, I see myself as quite an independent person. I can do everything myself. I have been cooking for myself, I can do my washing, I even have an electric scooter to get around now! It’s so different compared to at home, but I’ve been loving it.
While she has been enjoying her club football, Ziu's focus is very much on the international game for now.
Ireland enter their World Cup qualifier against Finland knowing that a victory will be enough to secure second place in the group and a place in the play-offs. A draw or loss would roll the campaign over to the final round of fixtures, with Ireland travelling to Slovakia and Finland away to table-toppers Sweden.
Ziu will be desperate to be involved in the game in Tallaght, which is set to host a record crowd for an Ireland Women's National Team game. The right-sided player has started in two of the last three qualifiers.
Despite Ireland being on the verge of a place in the play-offs, she admitted that the pressure on the team will make little difference to their approach.
We are one point ahead of them, it’s in our hands, I think it’s important that we don’t feel a lot of pressure going into the game and we just stick to what we’ve been doing in every camp. Don’t change anything up. I think we can get a result out of it if we just stick to our guns.
All of our focus is on Finland. Slovakia is not in our focus whatsoever. We’re one point ahead of Finland so the pressure is on us. But we’re not going to change anything, we will stick to ourselves and keep it going.
Ireland were victorious in the first meeting between the pair in the group, running out as 2-1 winners. Vera Pauw's side will be hoping for a repeat of that result on Thursday, taking the pressure off them before the trip to Slovakia next week.
With a sold out Tallaght Stadium behind them, there would be no better time to secure a place in the play-offs.