State of Play: Our collective stand will help the women’s team

Republic of Ireland’s Áine O’Gorman on how this week was about standing together

Áine O’Gorman: ‘We were all a bit overwhelmed. But the response was great.’ Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Áine O’Gorman: ‘We were all a bit overwhelmed. But the response was great.’ Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Classed as an amateur, trying to live like a professional. That’s me. I suppose it’s most of the players in this squad. We know the score and by and large don’t complain.

I made the decision to come home from England, to work and to play here and I’m happy; happy in my work and happy in my life; honoured to be able to play football for my country.

It’s busy. Pretty much train, work, eat, sleep. I work as a personal trainer and between that and the football, it takes up nearly all of my time. When you can, you get a little rest. It’s hectic but it’s good. I enjoy it and one of the things that makes it all worthwhile is getting play for Ireland. I do a lot to make that happen.

I could have stayed in England. I went over for the first year of the Super League, played for Doncaster and it was a great experience. I had a couple of seasons over there but the money I was getting paid was just liveable really.

Between seasons, I had to come home, get a job then head back. I just didn’t see any future to it. It was great experience and it was good to play at that level of football but for personal reasons, in the end, I chose to come back home

I’m happy to be settled back in Ireland now and to have a job.

Brighter future

Hopefully the agreement this week will make all of it just a little bit easier with things put in place to help the players involved now, improve standards and make the future a little brighter.

I’ve been involved with the senior squad for 11 years now and things have improved during that time but it’s always been slow. Noel King called me into my first squad. I was only 16, and quiet back then. But it was a great experience.

I’d been involved in underage teams so it wasn’t completely new to me but it was different. The girls weren’t all my own age, it wasn’t just about going along and hanging out with my mates. The senior players were welcoming but it was a different kind of group and the whole thing took you out of your comfort zone.

With the squad it was something that got talked about a lot. There was frustration that things weren’t up to the standard we believed we needed

The hotel and the training pitch were probably a bit better than anything I’d experienced up until then but the training was better, that was the main thing. At the end of the day, we’re all there to play football.

Since then, I’d have to say we’ve been well looked after when we’ve been in camp but this week was about the rest of the time; making the resources available to help girls become better players all of the time. We’ve seen the difference it makes when we play teams that already have the sort of backing that we were looking for.

With the squad it was something that got talked about a lot. There was frustration that things weren’t up to the standard we believed we needed. Over the last few years things have improved, there are more girls going away and playing professionally and that helps . . . they get better themselves and they come back and raise the standards for everyone else. But that opens your eyes too, to what is needed and sometimes it felt like we were banging our heads together.

Time for action

In the end, I suppose it was the representation of the PFAI that was driving us on. Things were probably brewing for a long time but eventually you get to the stage where it just feels like it’s the time for action.

Of course, there is the concern that it all might impact on your international career down the line, all that stuff crosses your mind, I suppose it’s only natural. But I think the passion we all felt for what we were doing, that we were justified, makes you put all of that to one side.

Áine O’Gorman (centre) with Stephanie Roche and Emma Byrne at the women’s national team press conference at Liberty Hall on Tuesday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Áine O’Gorman (centre)  at the press conference: `None of us wanted to be in the situation and it felt really strange but I don’t think anyone expected the reaction that we got.'

Even then, I thought it was never going to come to actually having a press conference. It was more like a back-up plan and it was a real surprise to me when I realised it was actually going to happen.

People were nervous about doing it. We were all a bit overwhelmed. But the response was great. None of us wanted to be in the situation and it felt really strange but I don’t think anyone expected the reaction that we got. It was a great feeling too, for everyone to be there together, to be standing strong together.

Long experience

I think from that point of view, it’s helped us as a squad. The decisions we took along the way were collective, the feeling always was that we had to bring people along with us and we did that. The people from the PFAI and Siptu were great, but in the end we did it together, as group and I think that that will stand to us, like some mad team building experience.

The mediation itself was an experience, a long experience; I hadn’t expected to go on the way it did but we were happy when we came out of it. I suppose the challenge now is to go and show that what we have achieved this week can make a difference to the team on the pitch.

I’m not sure the first training session back would be the best thing to go by. We were all so tired. But the manager said he was happy if we were happy. And we are. Of course we are. We’re playing for our country.

Áine O’Gorman started her career with her local club in Enniskerry. She has played for Stella Maris, Peamount United, Doncaster Belles and UCD Waves. She has earned nearly 100 caps for the Republic of Ireland and has previously captained the team.

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