Since running up and down the sidelines as a child with her grandfather, a coach with Palmerstown Rangers, Lisa Fallon has been steeped in football.
The Lucan, Co Dublin native played with several clubs in Ireland and England, where she studied Sports Science at Canterbury University, before moving in to coaching, becoming the first woman to take charge of an Irish men’s senior team when she was appointed by Lakelands FC in the Leinster Senior League in 2013.
She currently works as a performance and opposition analyst for Cork City and the Northern Ireland men’s senior team. Fallon also works as a radio sports reporter.
Describe your role with Cork City and Northern Ireland?
It’s pretty straightforward, I do analysis for both with the focus on the opposition. So really, my job is just to find margins that can help the team I’m working for. You look at everything that could possibly affect performance, you might see lots of things but just bring three or four key points forward that will be relevant to the game. I do motivational videos for the teams also.
You’ve had a memorable year, getting your A License as a football coach, working with the Northern Ireland team that qualified for Euro 2016 and with Cork City who finished runners-up in the League and reached the FAI Cup final?
It’s been a real privilege this year to be part of both set-ups, it’s been an immense experience. You really can’t put a value on it. A league and cup challenge with City, with Europa League also. Then it was great to be at Windsor Park that night [when Northern Ireland beat Greece to qualify for Euro 2016].
Just to be able to stand back and observe how much it meant to so many people, especially those who had put in so much work over the years, with results not always going to plan. It was a real privilege to be there and to feel you had contributed in some small way. I was delighted for Michael and all the team.
Is there any issue with how as a woman you are perceived by the players and staff you work with?
I haven’t really experienced anything derogatory at the higher level of the game. I really do feel that if you are given a job to do, and as long as you’re able to do it, people will respect you – once the job is done, and it’s done right, there’s never any issue. And I think that applies everywhere.
If I was working in an office the gender spread wouldn’t matter, you’re just expected to go in there and do your job. And you’ll get respect if you do it right. I don’t think football is any different really to any other working environment. And right from the start, I haven’t really had any major experiences where I felt out of place.
Your daughter Emma (14) plays football – probably unlike her mother, who didn’t have that many female role models in football growing up, she has you?
She loves the game, she plays with Lucan United who I started out with as a kid and a lot of the mums of the girls were on the same team as me when I played.
The greatest lesson I got from my Mum was that if you work hard there is nothing you can’t achieve in life. Things won’t always go easy, you have to be able to deal with setbacks, but bag the lessons and take them with you, and don’t let them hold you back. If I can get that through to my daughter then no matter what she chooses to do, she’ll have that bit of tenacity and resilience that she’ll need to survive in life. To kick on and achieve anything. If I could give her that, I’ll be happy.
You were at the Aviva on Monday?
It was brilliant to be there, the atmosphere was unbelievable. That’s the beauty of sport, that’s why we love it, it’s amazing what it can do for people, for the national mood. There can’t be anyone who wasn’t touched by the feeling of euphoria at the end of that game. Everyone’s walking around all this week buzzing because of football.
If the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland met in the knockout phase, would you just put your professional hat on, or would it be tricky?
Like anybody, when you have a job to do, you just do it.
You can look too far ahead and miss the moment you’re in. You need to keep working away at what you’re doing, the road will take you where it takes you. I do want to do my pro license, but apart from that it’s just to keep working as hard as I can for the people who have given me opportunities.
And to keep on enjoying it.