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Sixty seconds with Emma Byrne

A minute with footballer Emma Byrne

A minute with footballer Emma Byrne

Name: Emma Byrne.

Schools:Coláiste Chiaráin, Leixlip, Co Kildare.

Sport:Soccer.

Other school sports: Absolutely everything – except basketball. Because I was tall and because I was a goalkeeper everyone assumed I’d be good at basketball, but I was terrible at it, hopeless. But I played everything else, Gaelic football, camogie, athletics – anything to get out of class!

Who got you started in sport?There were lots of people who were an influence but my uncle used to visit us every week and he’d get me out training all the time, he was passionate about sport.

The best of days: That was definitely when we beat Drogheda in the semi-finals of the All-Ireland schools – on penalties. We were really a GAA school and Drogheda were expected to beat us, so it was a huge win for us.

The worst of days: The next match, the final! I still think about it all the time, even now. We lost 2-1 to Kells, who always, always seemed to beat us. And to top it all I ruptured my cruciate ligament, I was out for six to eight months. I was playing at centrehalf then, probably because I was big and lanky. A nightmare day.

Most inspiring sporting memory: Watching Sue Hayden, who was the Ireland goalkeeper when I first got in the squad – she was so good I sat on the bench for four years! She was just an unbelievable goalkeeper, and such a professional in training. I can’t pick out one game because she was great in all of them, but watching her was definitely an inspiration.

I wished I was: There wasn’t really any one I wanted to be, but Sue Hayden was definitely my hero. And Sonia O’Sullivan too – everyone looked up to her, she was an amazing athlete.

If I could turn back time: I might have accepted a soccer scholarship to America when I was 18. At the time it just wasn’t for me, but a lot of the girls went and it was an unbelievable experience for them. And they got degrees, so now that I’m thinking what I’ll do in the future that would have been a help! But if I had gone to America I’d probably have missed out on my Arsenal career, so you can’t have it all!

The value of school sport to you: Anything I’ve achieved in sport is down to the grounding I got in school. Coláiste Chiaráin was always so supportive of us, sport played such a big role in the school. I just wouldn’t be where I am now without that background. And of course for health reasons playing sport in school was great, along with all the friends you made – my team-mates were my best mates.

Most admired: Mart Poom (the 37-year-old Estonian goalkeeper who has played with several English clubs over the years, his longest spell being with Derby County). He’s with Watford now but comes in to coach me every week. He doesn’t even have to do it, but he enjoys coaching and he’s excellent at it. He’s had some bad injuries over the years but always came back, so he’s another big inspiration.

Not too keen: El-Hadji Diouf – all that spitting, it’s just the worst thing ever. My pet hate.

One sporting wish: To qualify with Ireland for a major tournament – I’d retire happy after that.

Emma Byrne is the Arsenal and Republic of Ireland goalkeeper. The 29-year-old, from Leixlip, Co Kildare, joined Arsenal in 2000 and has since won every honour with the club, including the quadruple in 2007 and the Player of the Year award in 2003 and 2005. She has over 60 senior international caps.