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'The Players Are There' - Áine O'Gorman Optimistic About World Cup Qualification

'The Players Are There' - Áine O'Gorman Optimistic About World Cup Qualification
By Eoin Harrington

Peamount United and Ireland striker Áine O’Gorman is excited for the upcoming Women’s National League and is anticipating a strong fight from the Irish national team in the upcoming 2023 World Cup qualifiers.

She was speaking at an event to launch the 2021 Aviva Soccer Sisters Virtual Skills Hub. Starting next Monday, O’Gorman will post daily skills videos for children to practise at home during the ongoing lockdown. The campaign seeks to keep children active and give them a fun way to work on their footballing skills from home, and O’Gorman thinks it has never been more important than this year.

“It’s more important than ever really. It will give young girls great access to keep up with their skills and continue to get that practice in a safe environment. It’s really tough at the moment for kids and they are all missing their friends and that social interaction. This is a great way to keep up the skills and continue to focus on their football with a bit of fun too.”

O’Gorman retired from international football in 2018, just after earning her 100th cap – but declared a U-turn on her decision just over a year ago. She made clear at the launch that she has no regrets about her decision and is eager to get going on a new qualification campaign with her Ireland teammates.

“I'm really happy to be involved. It felt like I never left to be honest. Maybe the little break did me good. [I'm] refreshed and recharged and ready to go again, so we'll see what the future holds.”

Ireland have never qualified for a major women’s tournament, with plenty of close calls over the last two decades. The qualifying draw for the 2023 World Cup takes place late next month and O’Gorman has no doubts that the national team can finally overcome the final hurdle and get to the finals in Australia and New Zealand.

“I think so. There's been too many hard luck stories. We need to learn to handle the pressure in games as well. We reached a play-off in 2008 for the Euros against Iceland, and that's the closest we've come. It's probably disappointing that we haven't come closer sooner.

The players are there. You look at the array of talent and the players coming through. There's a good mix of youth and experience - Deniese and Katie, players that have been around a long time - Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Niamh Fahey, who are at the top of their game as well. We'll have to see how the draw goes and take it one game at a time and prepare the best we can.”

The new WNL season kicks off this weekend, with Peamount starting their campaign away to Wexford Youths on Saturday evening. O’Gorman is excited for the new season, but she is very wary of the competitiveness of the chasing pack.

“Pre-season has felt long enough and it’s time to get down to business. There’s only so much training and friendlies you can play so looking forward to getting into the games with three points at the end of them.

I think it’s going to be our toughest season to date to try and win the title three times in-a-row. Look, we just have to be on our game and I think it could be one of the most competitive seasons yet to date.”

Peamount have had several departures in the off-season – either abroad (in the case of Niamh Farrelly’s move to Glasgow) or to competitors in the league. Though it isn’t an ideal situation, O’Gorman is still confident that they still have the quality to maintain their competitiveness this season.

“We still have a lot of strength and depth and I think the manager, James O'Callaghan, will still have a bit of a headache picking the team, which is always a good complaint as well.

It's hard to actually nail down our starting XI, whoever is on the bench will be ready to come on and replace like for like as well. It's a great position to be in and I don't think that's been an issue at all.

Obviously it's unfortunate when you lose players that are part of the squad and part of a winning team as well. Some of them have gone off to different clubs so we'll look forward to playing against them this year. It keeps it interesting, I suppose.”

The Peas are chasing a third consecutive league title this year for the first time and, if they are to achieve such a feat, O’Gorman will be crucial to their efforts.

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Peas fans may be concerned that the other contenders for the title have strengthened, but O’Gorman remains confident that, once Peamount keep the focus on their own performances, that there won’t be any issues for the new season.

“Yeah, I think Shelbourne have obviously strengthened their squad up a little bit as well, got a new manager in of the calibre of Noel King – which is great, obviously, it’s another big positive, I suppose, for the league to have someone of that calibre back in coaching and managing. Obviously DLR – a few of our players have gone over to them and they’re gonna have strength in depth and they’re gonna be a tough team to beat.

So, look, we can’t be under any illusions then, I think we prepare the best we can and focus on our game and make sure our performances are up there week in-week out, no matter who we’re playing.”

This year marks a major step forward for the WNL, with both the men’s and women’s Premier Divisions sharing a sponsor (SSE Airtricity) for the first time. Coupled with that is the introduction of a new streaming service, LOI TV, which will stream every WNL game live online for free. O’Gorman thinks that, given the current absence of fans from stadiums, the improvements in exposure couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It’s disappointing that we can’t get the crowds and the kids to come in and watch, but hopefully the exposure that the streaming will give might create more interest through the media exposure, the promotion, the sponsorships – that then, when crowds can come in, we’ll have more crowds than ever. That’s the hope and the aim of the game.

Until then, it’s up to us as players to keep focused on the game and make sure it’s highly competitive and attractive for people to come and watch as well.”

It's an exciting time for the women’s game in Ireland. With increased exposure for the domestic league coupled with an exciting burst of talent in the national team, there is rightly plenty of buzz surrounding the start of the WNL season. O’Gorman and her Peamount United teammates will be hoping that they can stay clear of the chasing pack – and it’s certainly clear that they are more than up for the fight.

Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team footballer Áine O'Gorman at the launch of the 2021 Aviva Soccer Sisters Virtual Skills Hub at Knocklyon United FC in Dublin.


Aviva Ireland and the FAI have launched Aviva Soccer Sisters’ Virtual Skills Hub as part of Aviva’s Safe To Dream Team campaign. The programme will roll out specially designed skills for girls to take part in during the upcoming Easter break. The free online skills series will be rolled out daily throughout the week commencing March 29th and can be viewed at aviva.ie/safetodreamteam.
Photo: Ryan Byrne (INPHO)

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