Football

Careers Of Cork Brother And Sister Are Beautifully Intertwined

Careers Of Cork Brother And Sister Are Beautifully Intertwined

In the 81st minute of Ireland's landslide victory over Georgia on Tuesday, Saoirse Noonan sidefooted the ball to the net for her side's ninth goal of the evening. An already eye-popping score bulged even further. The scoreboard operator in Tallaght headed towards uncharted territory.

It was a goal of significance. For the team, it equalled their record win. For the Cork native, who was on the pitch just six minutes for her second cap, it was her first senior goal, a landmark moment for every player.

Rather than making a celebratory run to the bench, Noonan turned to the corner. She was looking for her brother. Eóin Noonan was looking at her through his camera's viewfinder.

"I wasn't sure which corner he was in," Saoirse tells Balls.

"Obviously, there were a lot of photographers there. Stephen [McCarthy] does most of our media. He'll probably kill me for not running to his side. I think when I kicked the ball, I was going in that direction and I just continued my run on.

"If I'd went the other way, I would have had to do a 360 around the goal to go back and find Eóin. I just saw him in front of me, and I was like, 'This is just meant to be'.

"He gave out to me after, he said 'I thought you were going to slide on your knees!' - he had zoomed in. We were just laughing about that."

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In those seconds of celebration, the Sportsfile photographer couldn't be the older brother, excited to see a monumental moment for his sister and family. He was there to do a job and capture the action for expectant websites and newspapers. Emotional detachment was needed.

"As I was transmitting the pictures, it all became a little bit real," say Eóin, "I had a bit of a smile on my face, and I was like, 'Jesus, that was good'.

"In the moment, you're thinking, 'This is the picture. Let's get this. What's she going to do next?' You have to be ready for whatever celebration she does. It's the same for every player when they score, you have to be ready for whatever the picture is, and make sure you nail it."


30 November 2021; Saoirse Noonan of Republic of Ireland scores her side's ninth goal during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifying group A match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Eóin's favourite photo from Tuesday's historic 11-0 win is the one taken just after his sister scores.

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"The ball is in the left of the frame, and her face is just in complete shock," he says.

"She can't seem to fathom that it's happened.

"That's probably one of my favourite pictures, and will be for a long time. It's perfectly framed. The ball is to the left of the frame, everybody is looking at the ball. Saoirse, I don't know what she's looking at or looking for; maybe she's looking to see if the scoreboard is ticking over, to make sure it went up.

"She looks delighted, shocked, happy - every emotion."

Saoirse Noonan goal for Ireland vs Georgia

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The last six weeks have been ones Saoirse will never forget. In addition to her first senior international goal, she made her Ireland debut in the World Cup qualifier against Sweden in October, and she won the Women's National League with Shelbourne in mid-November.

There to capture the big moments - just as he has been since he was a teenager using the camera given to him by his grandfather - was her 24-year-old brother.

Eóin, who is two years older than Saoirse, began working for Sportsfile seven years ago. His first gig was the 2014 Munster club football final between Austin Stacks and The Nire at the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Sportsfile used five of his shots from the game, and he spent the evening showing their local pub, the Grange Bar in Cork, his work while his father had a pint.

The following April, he was at Turner's Cross when Saoirse lined out for the Ireland U17s in a European Championship elite phase game against the Netherlands.

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saoirse noonan eoin noonan debut goal ireland photographer
11 April 2015; Saoirse Noonan, Republic of Ireland, goes to meet fans after the game. UEFA Women's Under 17 European Championship Elite Phase, Group 2, Republic of Ireland v Netherlands, Turners Cross, Cork. Picture credit: Eoin Noonan / SPORTSFILE

"That was my first year playing with Ireland that was competitive," says Saoirse.

"We'd beaten England the week before, and I scored the winner. I think we got a huge crowd for that game. It was when we qualified for the European finals. I think that was probably one of the best moments of my life playing against England in Turner's Cross.

"That picture was just amazing. That was all my school and all my friends and family kind of in one section. That's definitely a memory that I'll have forever.

"Turners Cross was where we grew up, where my Mom and dad are from. We live up the road from it, having all your friends there - the whole school came down. And then your brother is there to catch every moment."

Saoirse and Eóin's careers have since become intertwined. In March 2016, the Ireland U17s travelled to France for the elite round of the European Championships. The Noonan family was there to support Saoirse, and Eóin - on one of his first big solo jobs - photographed the tournament for Sportsfile. Ireland did unexpectedly well, winning games against France and Hungary. For his employers, it was a good look to have a presence at the games.

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"That's the year I left school, finished sixth year," says Eóin.

"At the time, it was massive for me. It would have been a huge game to do by myself. A lot of the games before that, I'd done it with somebody, almost as a work experience role."

Interspersed between Saoirse's sporting successes have been disapointments. Up to this year, she also played ladies football for a Cork team which lost All-Ireland finals to Dublin in 2018 and 2020. After losing by five points to that steamroller Dublin team in 2018, Saoirse - who came on at half-time - needed some consoling.

"[Sam Barnes], one of the Sportsfile lads, took a picture of me and Eóin hugging after the match," she says.

"When I think of him taking pictures of me, I think of that photo all the time. I just needed that hug in that time. He's working, and it's a professional job, but he took the quick couple of seconds to come over. It was a sad moment turned into a lovely memory."

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saoirse noonan eoin noonan debut goal ireland photographer
16 September 2018; Saoirse Noonan of Cork is consoled by her brother and Sportsfile Photographer Eóin Noonan during the TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship Final match between Cork and Dublin at Croke Park, Dublin. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Shelbourne winning this year's league title was somewhat expected. On the final day of fixtures, Peamount United were 2-0 up against Galway, and well on their way to the victory they required to top the table. However, Galway fought back to win 5-2, and Shels got the three points they needed against Wexford Youths to pip Peamount on the line.

Saoirse thinks it's the only game her parents missed this season. Fortunately, Eóin, who thought he'd "better go just in case something happens" was there at Tolka Park.

"[Our parents] decided that because the cup final was coming around, the two international matches, and they were up and down to Dublin the weekend before as well, it was just so many trips," says Saoirse.

"They said, 'Look, Peamount probably have the league'.

"My Dad kills himself for not going. They were both at home. I was so grateful to have Eoin there. When I rang them, he was standing next to me. He caught that little moment."

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saoirse noonan eoin noonan debut goal ireland photographer
13 November 2021; Saoirse Noonan of Shelbourne facetimes her family following the SSE Airtricity Women's National League match between Shelbourne and Wexford Youths at Tolka Park in Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

2021 has been a year of change and success for Saoirse. In February, she left Cork City to join Shelbourne, and decided if her soccer career was to make significant progress, she'd have to quit ladies football. (She also somehow found time to start her own clothing brand, Freedom.) Those decisions have paid off. Saoirse was Shels' top scorer this season. And she is now part of an Irish team on course for World Cup qualificiation that is setting records on and off the pitch.

In what the FAI called "a ground-breaking deal for Irish sport", it was announced in August that the men's and women's teams would receive equal match fees. That was followed in September by Sky becoming the women's team's first standalone shirt sponsor. And, in a mark of the buzz surrounding Vera Pauw's side, the victory against Georgia drew the largest ever television audience for an Irish women's international game.

"It's absolutely insane just seeing and being part of it," says Saoirse.

Having her brother there to capture the big moments to come will make them even more meaningful.

Watch: Teammate Interrupts Katie McCabe Interview To Ask Pertinent Question

saoirse noonan eoin noonan debut goal ireland photographer

PJ Browne
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