Women in Sport: McCarthy aims high after making big move to Glasgow

Kerry woman has achieved her childhood goals and is now eyeing U-19 Euros

Savannah McCarthy has captained her country at every underage level. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Savannah McCarthy has captained her country at every underage level. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

Growing up in Listowel, Savannah McCarthy had two ambitions: to play senior football for Ireland and to play the game professionally. In the space of a month this year, she achieved both, signing for Glasgow City in February before making her senior debut for Ireland against Austria in the Cyprus Cup.

The 19-year-old has captained her country at every underage level and this week is leading the under-19 team in their three games at Tallaght Stadium as they aim to qualify for this summer’s European Championship finals.

It’s been an amazing few weeks for you, between the move to Glasgow, your senior debut and captaining the under-19s – are you dizzy from it all?

I am a bit alright, there’s been a lot going on. But this year has been going really great for me, starting with signing for Glasgow City. That was always the dream, to play professionally, and I’m joining an ambitious club that allows me do that.

Was having some Irish team-mates at Glasgow a big help when you arrived? [Denise O’Sullivan, who has since left for Houston Dash, Claire Shine and Ruesha Littlejohn].

Definitely. I’d talked to them all before I signed and knowing they were there made it easier for me to settle in. Apart from being on Ireland trips, I hadn’t been away from home before. I was living with Denise and Claire from the start, now just with Claire, so that’s been a great help too.

Was that always an ambition, to play outside Ireland?

It was, yeah. A lot of the squad are playing outside Ireland and you can see how their game has developed. Playing in that kind of environment and playing professionally can only help me too. It’s a great opportunity for me, hopefully only good things will come. Glasgow have done well in the Champions League the last few seasons, so I’m really looking forward to playing at that level.

Has football been the centre of your life since you were a kid?

Yeah, it has, probably since I was around seven when I joined my first club, Listowel Celtic. It was always my first priority. My father [Stephen] was a good player, so football was a big part of our lives growing up.

Being a Kerry woman, you had to have played Gaelic football too?

I played up to minor with Kerry, but I had to make a decision then, I was away so much with soccer. I was playing with UCD Waves, going up for training on a Wednesday, coming back down, back up for training on Friday, and then there was a game on Sunday, so I was always travelling – and I still had my Leaving Cert going on. It just got too much for me.

You’ve captained your country at every underage level – were you the eldest, the bossy one in your family?

No, I’m in right the middle of four brothers and four sisters!

There goes that theory.

I would have got plenty of advice from my older brothers and sisters, so I probably picked it up from them. I’ve just always been captain of teams, I just try to be friends with everyone, help them settle in, encourage them.

Tell us about your senior debut, what it meant to you.

I only turned 19 last week, so I never thought it would come this quick. There was a lot of stuff going through my head, coming up all the way through underage and then for that day to come. Running on to that pitch was pretty special. It was something I always dreamt of. I’m achieving my goals. And it’s my last year at underage so I’d love to finish on a high and get to the European finals with the under-19s.

Until all that happened, you said that one of your highlights was winning the Irish Traveller Pride Award in 2013, that it meant so much to you, your family and the Traveller community?

Definitely, getting recognised like that was special, and being presented with the award by Katie Taylor, someone I look up to, made it extra special. We’ve been friends since.

You said you felt like a role model for kids in your community, that you were ‘achieving your dreams’?

Well, I try to get young girls and young boys involved, if you have a dream, something you want to do, no matter what it is, then you’re well able to do it once you have that mindset – whatever you want to do, just follow your dreams. And every time I pull on that green jersey, it’s a dream come true for me. It makes my family proud. Even more so when I get the captain’s armband. It’s always special for me.

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