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'My Dad said, "Go and enjoy football, it's what your grandad would have wanted you to do"'

Megan Campbell has been a pillar of strength as Ireland’s full-back.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND’S Megan Campbell needed some advice from her father recently.

Megan Campbell with Gunnhildur Yrsa Jonsdottir Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

She had a World Cup qualifier against Slovakia approaching, and after winning their opening game in Group 3 against Northern Ireland, Ireland were looking to sustain their winning form.

Campbell played an integral role in that 2-0 victory over the North. Her signature long throw-ins forced the opposition to concede the opening goal, and she put boot to ball from distance to claim the second goal for herself.

Her skills would be called upon once again to get a result against Slovakia, but she was unsure if she should make herself available.

Her grandfather, and renowned musician, Eamonn Campbell had just passed away while on tour in Holland. Naturally, Campbell’s instinctive thoughts brought her home to Ireland, but when she asked her father for some advice on what to do, the answer was simple.

“When I called my Dad to see if I should go to Slovakia or not, my Dad just said, ‘go and enjoy football, it’s what your Grandad would have wanted you to do. Make the most of it and come back and we’ll obviously still be here,’” she told The42.

“When I went out to Slovakia, mentally, it was very tough for me to even be in the squad and not be at home but I knew I had to do it for him.

I was very thankful when we got that win and just to be able to say that I did it for him. I know he was very proud of me playing for Ireland because he was a man who loved Ireland and loved this country and love the culture and everything about it.

“I was very proud of him still having a sickness and still playing and carrying through and never wanting to stop right to the end. He passed away doing what he loved to do, which was gigging.

“He gave me that belief and desire to continue, that’s why I went.”

Her grandfather was a talented guitar player and a long-existing member of the Dubliners. He was with the band when they appeared on the Late Late Show to celebrate their 25th anniversary back in 1987.

Eamonn C1 Eamonn Campbell pictured with The Dubliners in 1987. Source: Ab met de Kroam Youtube Channel.

His gigging schedule didn’t always allow him to attend Megan’s games, but he always maintained contact with her father to try and make arrangements so that he could be at her international games at home.

“He wouldn’t have got to any of games with (Man) City but when I was at home with Ireland and we played at Tallaght Stadium, he would have come to my games.

“He was always contacting my Dad, asking when would I be home again and if it didn’t clash with his gigging, he would always be there.

“I even have the messages from him saying, ‘good luck.’ It was funny because the week we were playing Northern Ireland, he had seen a Northern Ireland team travelling back and I had let him know that we were playing them later that week.

He wished me the best of luck and then after the game, he’d never really call me but he called me after the Northern Ireland game and was just like, ‘I’m so proud of you,’ so that was so nice to have that phonecall from him to have that as the last time that I spoke to him in voice to voice contact.

“It’s really nice to cherish that and hold onto that.”

Campbell was always proud of her grandad’s musical talent and the Irish folk songs he sang. Every Christmas, Campbell and her family would head for Vicar Street to watch her granddad perform. She always enjoyed the occasion, and can still appreciate the music now.

“You’d just be standing there and listen to that music. And I still listen to it now. I love that type of music, it’s just really cultured and Irish heritage. It gives me great memories of being a kid around him.”

Eamonn Campbell once said in an interview that Elvis was his first inspiration to become a guitar player. ”On the radio came Elvis Presley’s ‘That’s Alright Then Mama,’ and that was it. I was just hooked on guitar,” he said.

His granddaughter, sadly, never gravitated towards music in the same way. She dabbled in the violin for a while, but her chops were suited more to sport, and more specifically, football.

This path has led the Drogheda native to become a valued full-back for the Republic of Ireland, as well as a Man City player. She first joined the Manchester club in 2016, and despite an unfortunate run of injuries, has since signed a one-year contract extension.

One interesting aspect of Campbell’s game is her aforementioned long throw-ins. In fact, it’s the first search suggestion when you plug her name into Youtube.

She doesn’t have any exact figures on the kind of distance she can cover with them, but you can appreciate her skills by looking at her efforts in flight on these videos.

Source: RTÉ Sport/YouTube
Source: rstack09/YouTube

It’s just one of the many powers she possesses as a player, and not one she dwells on too much.

But she can still remember when it first became apparent that she had this specialist ability.

“I think it was when I was playing with the U14s in Boyne Rovers in Drogheda. I threw it from the sideline as a full-back and it was longer than most of the boys and they were just like, ‘do that again, do that again.’ From there it just got longer.

“I don’t train it, it’s not something that I love to improve. It’s just it is what it is and it’s always been nice to have in the back pocket.”

When Campbell arrived at City, she was put through a series of tests, one of which examined her hyper mobility in certain areas. Unsurprisngly, Campbell scored an eight out of nine in those stakes.

But those natural genetic gifts carry some drawbacks for Campbell too.

“There’s pros and cons to it. If the joints in my ankle are quite lax, then I can roll my ankles quite easily which unfortunately I did and ended up needing surgery.

“The pros to it are that you’ve got a long throw and it can be used as a weapon. You take the good with the bad.”

2017 became a landmark year for women’s Irish soccer. The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team (WNT) team held a protest in April to demand better treatment and conditions from the FAI.

A deal was eventually reached, and the players were satisfied that their demands were met.

A promising start to their World Cup qualifying campaign is the culmination of all their efforts, and although the public interest in their situation has eased off, Campbell assures that they FAI have stayed true to their word.

Megan Campbell celebrates scoring her sides second goal Megan Campbell celebrates scoring Ireland's second goal against Northern Ireland. Source: Presseye/William Cherry/INPHO

“The focus turns to us now and can we produce (the results) after what they’ve given us? We’ve asked for it, they’ve provided it so now we have to carry through with our side of things. And so far so good for us, fingers crossed it stays going the way it is.

“We’re very happy with the two wins out of two, and the clean sheets are very important to us.

“It’s going in the right direction and things are still growing. They’re still far away off where they need to be but we’re going in the right direction and finally people are opening their eyes and realising that the women need support as much as the men do.”

The Ireland Women’s rugby team have since been rocked by a similar controversy, following the IRFU’s advertisement for a new XVs head coach which consists of a six-month deal on a part-time and casual basis.

Campbell hopes that the rugby team can draw some courage from their stand-off as they look to seek improvements in their own sport.

“It’s never nice to see that happening because I know if I was involved, it would be very upsetting for me.

I think they can look at our situation and take positives from what we’ve gone through and succeeded in and knowing that if they are unified and if they stick together, people from all over Ireland are supporting them.”

Colin Bell’s side face the Netherlands away in their next 2019 World Cup qualifying game later this month.

Taking on the Euro 2017 champions will be a trickier assignment than what they have faced already, but Campbell is confident that Ireland have the momentum behind them and that some surprises could be in store.

“I don’t think we could have asked for any better with Ireland — two clean sheets, two wins and four goals. I think we’re going into Holland (feeling) very optimistic and taking more points from the European champions.

“We know it’s going to be tough against Holland, there’s no doubt about that. But we’re optimistic, we’re up for it and just keep working together as a team. Some results may come our way that people weren’t expecting.”

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