Joanne O’Riordan: Leanne Kiernan in a good place as Liverpool join top flight

Cavan woman’s goals a big factor in helping the club seal promotion

It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey for Cavan woman Leanne Kiernan.

Battling through shin splints and trying to rediscover her form while at the same time signing for Liverpool in their quest to get promoted. Her club form has been nothing short of remarkable.

From the six-minute hat-trick in Liverpool's 6-0 win over Blackburn in January to being the club's top scorer, she was voted Liverpool's best women's player by multiple groups. So, how does such a remarkable turnaround even happen?

"One of the reasons I came was Niamh Fahey, because I've been with Fahey in the Irish team for a good while. She is the captain of Liverpool, and I spoke to her about it before joining, and I feel like I trust her opinion. So yeah, it's been great working with Fahey and, of course, Megan [Campbell] , and then we have Colm [Smith, strength and conditioning coach] as well there.


“No, it’s great craic. It kind of feels like a home away from home. The Scouse people are very similar to the Irish people, they’re very easygoing, and they’re so laid back they’re nearly horizontal,” Kiernan jokes.

Coming to Liverpool Kiernan was chomping at the bit to get back to playing regular football. With regular games comes confidence, and with confidence comes goals. Thirteen in her first season, to be exact.

“I kind of had a few goals in my mind that I wanted to achieve this year. One being promotion, of course. And we actually got promoted, so I’m happy with that. I kind of had a few goals, kind of like personal goals, like a few goals. I like to score. And I feel like I’ve done okay in that area as well. So quite happy”.

Happiness and confidence are two things you’d expect from a 23-year-old living the dream. From the outside, Kiernan is always smiling and embraces challenges and obstacles. But her shin splints in her last season with West Ham caused incredible frustration. A restart was needed. A fresh start.

“I remember I moved to Liverpool, and it was quite daunting, actually, because I’m kind of stepping down a level in terms of WSL to Championship, but I knew I’d been out for the full year before with shin splints, and I had some hamstring issues, and I couldn’t really get the flow of things. Unfortunately, my body wasn’t feeling that last year.

“So I remember going home in the summer and thinking, ‘right, I’m going to rest for a full six weeks and just prep for my time in Liverpool’ when I signed. And just from there, I feel like when you’re happy in your environment, outside of football too, you kind of blossom very well. So I felt life was great.

“I worked really hard with my rehab before I turned up to play football in Liverpool. I made lots of friends straight away. And it really helped me because the Irish girls were here and I could call them as well. And thankfully, I really worked hard over the summer. I feel like this is the first year that I actually kind of got a full season under my belt, but no injuries.”

New family

Of course, family is huge for Leanne and the Kiernan clan. Initially, when the opportunity arose to go professional after her incredible career with Shelbourne in the WNL, her father told her she’d be crazy not to take the chance. Pig farming is another love for Kiernan and her lovely dog, who she misses . . . and her family.

"This is the fourth year away. I feel like even some of those when I go home, I'm like, there's not much for me at home. All my friends are away in Dublin, or one of them has moved to New Zealand, and another to Germany, so like, they're not even home. So if I'm home, I'm just either on the farm or, like, a lot of my friends are gone. So I'm quite enjoying making new friends and like new family over here, to be honest.

“I missed the farming because I’m quite an outdoor girl, like I liked it in the nature and everything. But I know it will always be there for me when I go home, and I actually got a wee dog during Covid, a sausage dog, so I probably miss her a lot. I miss her, and I go home to see her. Mam doesn’t like to hear that!”

For someone who is only 23, Kiernan has a worldview and quiet confidence that’s inspiring for young girls and boys who look up to her. She understands with life there are highs and lows, ups and downs, but you can only control your attitude and your ability to do your best.

“Well, if I was to look back, I’ve always enjoyed it. Maybe I took it sometimes a bit too serious. So I just enjoy every moment. All the medals you won, all the goals you score, enjoy it and make the most of the time you have because it doesn’t be long going. I guess confidence-wise, always believe in yourself. Every manager and everybody has an opinion on things and everything, that’s life. Maybe there might be negative opinions too.

“And it’s just kind of like to block out the negative opinions. And once you believe that you can be the best, nobody can take that away from you. And I feel like a massive thing of being a professional and becoming a professional is your mental strength, and how much belief you have in yourself and kind of ignore the haters and everything. I think that’s a massive thing. So I would say yeah, that ‘just enjoy it’.

“Enjoy, laugh, smile, and sometimes even in the biggest finals you are going out to play or a really, really big game, if you just sit and think to yourself, like ‘Why do I play football?’ And you can say it’s my job, and it’s great and everything, but really it comes down to ‘because I love what I do’.

“I love scoring goals. And I love the feeling I get from that, and not many things can come close to that, you know or can come between that, so I feel like a big thing for me is just enjoying every moment.”