Niamh Fahey admits to frustrating year for club and country

Ireland international says more resources are needed to do ourselves justice

This is a big week for Niamh Fahey and it has not started well. The Galway woman was in Dublin in recent few days for the Republic of Ireland's final game of the European Championship qualifiers against Portugal, and while a place in the finals was already out of the question the team's 1-0 defeat has compounded her disappointment.

Now it is back to London ahead of Chelsea's trip to Manchester on Sunday, when losing to arch rivals City would mean the surrender of their Women's Super League title.

Even a win, she acknowledges, might not be enough, but anything less and it is effectively game over.

"They haven't been beaten all season," she says of City who have, like Chelsea, worked hard to position themselves at the top of the women's game over recent seasons, "so they're the firm favourites. But we're still in the mix, and if we can beat them I'd be quietly hoping that things will go our way."

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Beyond that there is the upcoming game against Wolfsburg in the Champions League, a repeat of last year's encounter which the Germans won a little too comfortably, so this is a chance for Fahey and her team-mates to test themselves.

She seems to be enjoying it all even if she doesn’t seem to have quite struck the right balance away from the game in London. Having worked full-time in the research end of a biopharmaceutical firm while she was at Arsenal, Fahey struggled a little with all the spare time that full-time soccer left her with and went back to work for a few hours each week.

Having relocated to south London when she changed clubs, she has found the commute back to her old workplace a bit frustrating with the London traffic sometimes “a nightmare”, and so she is considering her options.

Going forward

“I couldn’t have asked for better move to be honest,” she says of her soccer career. “I really like it there. We haven’t been successful trophy-wise this year [after the double winning success of her first campaign in blue] but we’re definitely building something, we’re going forward, and I’m very comfortable there. I like the atmosphere and the style of play...it’s gone very well.”

That said, she admits, “it’s been a frustrating year for me”.

“I seem to have picked up niggles at times when we have had a lot of games then been fit when we haven’t had a lot of games, so I’ve struggled a bit, it’s been in and out with games, it’s been a weird one really.”

Her frustration over the fixture list, – “bizarre,” she calls it – is not hard to understand. In a league with just nine teams and despite having reached one cup final, Chelsea have had two calendar months with just one game this season as well as periods when they then come thick and fast.

Explanation

“I’m not sure but they seem to plan everything around the

England

women’s team, and so when they have camps they tend to go away for a long time so you get massive chunks off. I think that’s the only plausible explanation.”

The Republic of Ireland have also their camps but, as Tuesday's defeat highlighted, the team is not progressing in the way that she might have been hoped.

“When you consider that Portugal have gone into that second spot [the one Ireland targeted] and we were easily the better team against them when we played them the first time...but we gradually dipped and dipped. We’ve been getting worse really as the campaign went on, and that’s been disappointing.”

A handful of the players are, like her, at professional clubs overseas, but many others are amateurs, based at home, and having to hold down jobs while working hard to improve.

Resources, she insists, remain a key issue.

“There are still a lot of players who are putting their careers on hold and are out of pocket just to represent their country. Those are the sort of issues that we need to look at if we want to get this team qualifying for tournaments.

“If more players go to the English teams then that’s only going to help, but I think more needs to be done for the home-based players to try to get up to the level and to balance their work; they need more help.

“It is a big step up [to international football] and a big ask to expect them to give the time and commitment. We’re not doing ourselves justice.

“We’re not that far off the mark but things could be done better. We just need to put in that extra 10 or 15 per cent.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times