O’Sullivan determined defeat is not a done deal for Irish as frauen come to town
European champions arrive with formidable record but Freiburg forward tells team-mates German opponents are not invincible
Republic of Ireland striker Fiona O’Sullivan is convinced her team has a more than fighting chance against the formidable Germany team, whom they meet in a Women’s Fifa World Cup 2015 qualifying game at Tallaght tomorrow. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
She may be better placed than any of her Irish team-mates to judge but Freiburg’s Fiona O’Sullivan sounds
To be fair, the Germans have scored 40 and conceded none in winning their opening five games in this World Cup campaign and last year they lifted their sixth consecutive European title.
Before that, they’d caused some consternation by failing to win a third straight World Cup in 2011 when they hosted the tournament but 26,000 turned out to watch play Japan in a quarter-final that went to extra-time with, more remarkably, around 17 million watching on TV. The numbers give some sense of the seriousness with which the women’s game is taken there.
“Yeah, they take their women’s football very seriously,” observes O’Sullivan, “and because of that it’s a very professional environment. People are investing in it, people come to the matches and it shares the back pages with the men’s football. It’s the most serious I’ve ever seen it I’ve ever seen and I have played in a couple of places.”
Born in California to a father from Bantry, which she visited every summer as a child, and a mother with some Irish ancestry and, she says, some Cherokee too, O’Sullivan has shown a willingness to explore every avenue as she made her way from America’s west coast to the heart of the Europe and the top of the women’s game.
She always felt driven to become the best player she could be wherever that quest might have taken her but the path she has taken was shaped to a significant extent by the decision of her boyfriend to email the FAI four years ago alerting them to her eligibility.
After a successful spell at an Irish training camp in the US she committed to the cause, which immediately cost her place at the Chicago club to which she had been drafted.
The manager presented her with the starkest of choices after being told she intended travelling for qualifiers and while O’Sullivan acknowledges there was a cost involved in sticking to her guns she clearly believes she had no choice:
“You don’t just make a promise like that and then jump ship when a better offer comes along.”
She has, she says, been learning all the way, although occasionally the lesson has not been what she expected, like when she signed for Pitea in north-eastern Sweden: “It was in the middle of nowhere.
‘Always check out the map’
“When I got there the sun came up at 10am and went down at 3pm; so I learned from that to always check out the map before you sign something.”
The university town of Freiburg, near the border with France and Switzerland, is an altogether more agreeable location; perfect in any case, from where to weigh up tomorrow’s challenge.
“Should we get a result out of it? No,” she says. “Can we get a result out of it? Yes. I’ve played against all of them. Okay, two of them play for PSG but three of them play with me at Freiburg so I’m quite familiar with them and I play against them most weekends.
“They’re good players and in training they’re good but they’re not invincible. At times I seem like the only one that believes it, but,” she insists, “they are human.”