Denise O’Sullivan loving life at No 10 as Ireland get back on the front foot

Midfield playmaker enjoying the freedom to express herself in Nations League campaign

Collectively, a fair number of air miles were accrued between the Irish squad when they left Budapest on Wednesday, their destinations England, Scotland, Switzerland, Belgium and the United States, with Savannah McCarthy the sole player heading back to Ireland.

Few will build up more this month, though, than Denise O’Sullivan who will hardly be back in North Carolina when she’ll be in the air again, a 12-hour round trip to Seattle up next ahead of Monday’s NWSL game away to OL Reign.

And a few days later she’ll be on duty at the AJ Fletcher Theatre in Raleigh for an event titled ‘The World Cup in their own words: An evening with the Courage’s global superstars’.

After that, Courage play Kyra Carusa’s San Diego Wave and Marissa Sheva’s Washington Spirit, before O’Sullivan returns to Dublin again ahead of the home and away Nations League games against Albania next month.


It’s as well she has a good engine.

She has no complaints, though, not least because she’s enjoying her football now more than ever, making no secret after Tuesday’s win over Hungary, when she capped her player of the match performance with Ireland’s fourth goal, that she’s finally playing the role she feels suits her best.

“I love playing at 10, I think that’s my job, to try and assist and score more goals. That’s something I challenge myself on, I need to get better at it.”

Is it much more enjoyable for you now, do you feel unleashed?

“Can you tell?”

Yes. Loving the freedom?

“Yeah, 100 per cent. I think the number 10 is my natural position, getting in those pockets, creating space for myself, creating space for others, that’s where I thrive. I have more freedom in there for sure.”

“I think we’re all happy as players with this new style of play. And we have the players to do it, we have the quality in the team to play like that and it showed over these past two games. We need to keep building on it because we have a lot to improve on, but it’s been a fantastic camp, we’re really enjoying the training sessions and we are a team that is trying to play football right now.”

Without any names being mentioned, that was, of course, a pointed enough barb at the previous regime, and O’Sullivan will certainly hope that whoever is appointed as Vera Pauw’s permanent successor will continue to give both her and Katie McCabe in particular freedom to roam.

“I’ve played with Katie for years, we know each other’s movements and play off each other well. It was great to have her high up the pitch alongside me, I think it worked well. You have to just let Katie do her thing, she’s world class.”

She offers no opinion on who Pauw’s successor should be – “that’s the FAI’s job right now, I think the team is doing their job on the pitch and we’re letting them deal with that” – but believes whoever it will be will inherit a quality group of players.

“We’re resilient, we’re tough, we’re physical – and we’re playing football as well, you can see that. Yeah, we’re loving it.”

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times