Wearing the Green for Ireland

 

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I don’t think you can get much better than playing and representing your country in something you love doing and this is exactly what I did in October. I was chosen to play for the Irish U17 Women’s Soccer Team in the 2010 UEFA Campaign. It was truly an amazing experience – I loved every minute of it.

It was my first time in a serious international tournament and it was held in Belfast. We played Northern Ireland in our first match on the 16th October. They were hosting the tournament so they had loads of support. The atmosphere was pretty hostile but our managers told us just to play football. It was a really tough match, with tackles flying from every direction, but we scored in the last five minutes of the match and it was such a relief! We all went mad: the managers were jumping up and the subs were running around. It was great to have both my Mum and Dad there to watch the match.

Our second match was agains Macedonia on 18th October. We went into the game knowing that the Czech Republic had beaten them 8-0. We had watched videos of the game the night before so we were very confident going in. It wasn’t a great match though: they were so bad that it stopped us from playing well. We scored early on and the second goal was a cracker, from a free kick just outside the box. It was a huge stadium so the atmosphere was great! Loads of Irish supporters, parents, friends and family were there to watch. There was a great atmosphere in the dressing rooms at half time – all positive comments. We scored early again in the second half. The last two goals came pretty soon after that. When the final whistle went, cheers came from the crowds and everyone involved was delighted with a 5-0 win. It wasn’t as good as 8-0, but it was still a win. This meant that a win against the Czech Republic would qualify us for the Elite Stages next year.

We played our final match against the Czech Republic on 21st October. The nerves were immense for this match. We knew we needed a win out of it and that we could get one too: it was just how we were going to get it! We had done everthing: video analysis, pre-match meal at 10am (strange experience eating a dinner at this time!), hydration tests, drug tests, fitness tests, physio – anything to give us the edge. All we could do was go out and play like we were told by our manager, Harry Kenny. The speeches in the dressing room before the match were great and we were all up for it. The nerves really kicked in during the national anthems. Looking up at the crowd….all the important people from the WFAI were there to watch….we all really wanted to win!

We were definitely the better team in the first half which seemed to go on forever. We had so many chances: we hit the crossbar twice. The Czech Republic players were the biggest I’ve ever seen. Tall and stocky and they had no problem showing it! They put in some bad tackles, most weren’t noticed by the referee but we just got on with the game and created chances. Then we began to get tired and started giving away risky free kicks and corners. Before we knew it, they had taken a 1-0 lead from a ‘jammy’ corner and a mix-up in our defence. Despite the encouragement coming from the crowd we couldn’t get any more chances. It seemed like all of a sudden they had put on a new team but they hadn’t! They were running at us non-stop and creating loads of chances. They slipped in another messy goal and everyone was raging. With five minutes to go we knew we would have to work really hard to get two goals. There were no chances though: our heads dropped as we saw the Elite Stages moving futher away from us.

The final whistle went and we had lost 2-0. The Czechs were dancing and jumping around while we were in tears on the pitch. Family and friends came down and Irish flags were waving. The

 few minutes we had in the dressing room were the worst. I’d never sat in so much silence in my life! We packed up all the gear and packed it into the team bus. We all knew this was the end of our 2010 European Campaign.

Thankfully I’m young enough to go through it all again next year. Maybe with some better luck next time….

EMILY

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