Pictured is Republic of Ireland & Shelbourne FC footballer Abbie Larkin at the launch of this year’s Aviva Soccer Sisters Easter Camps. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Rising Star

The 16-year-old sensation aiming for the stars after a recent Ireland senior debut

Abbie Larkin has a bright future ahead.

IT’S BEEN NOTHING short of a whirlwind few months for Abbie Larkin.

Just last October, the 16-year-old made her full Women’s National League [WNL] debut, starring with a goal for Shelbourne before the TG4 cameras at Tolka Park, and in February, she received her first senior international call-up. A meteoric rise.

Larkin went on to win her first and second Republic of Ireland women’s national team caps at the Pinatar Cup, becoming one of our youngest-ever senior internationals. (Tyler Toland holds that title at 16 years and 43 days, while Larkin was 16 years and 298 days. Her 17th birthday falls on 27 April — any plans? None. “Football is everything,” she stresses.)

“It was an unbelievable experience,” the still-star struck Shelbourne teenager tells The42 at the launch of the Aviva Soccer Sisters Easter Festival, reflecting on her first camp. That the Fifth Year student got the day off school for the launch hammers home just how young she is.

“I won’t forget that, obviously. To even have it in Spain with the good weather is even better! But yeah, I enjoyed it. I think I played well for my first start, but the nerves were there. Playing with all of them, it was amazing. The nerves got to me a little bit but I think I played a decent debut.”

Her mother and father were there to watch the 1-0 defeat to Russia, which added to the special occasion as Larkin realised a lifelong goal and continued her upward trajectory in the green jersey.

“Obviously, it was my dream since I was young to always play for Ireland, underage or seniors, it doesn’t really matter,” the U17 international smiles. “It’s been amazing.

“Scoring goals, the feeling is… I can’t even describe that. It’s just unforgettable. And then to even start with the seniors is something I wouldn’t imagine that would happen at this age, but I’m so happy it did.”

Larkin’s mother found out about the call-up a couple of days before she did, and the player – alongside both her parents – was later told she was “ready” by Vera Pauw at a home-based training session.

In camp, she was welcomed in by the wider group, with Soccer Sisters connection Áine O’Gorman one of many to do so with open arms.

“I was nervous at the start,” Larkin concedes. “I remember coming in and I seen Katie just standing there. I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Katie McCabe, she’s going to come over and talk to me!’ It was a bit awkward on the first day but then I kind of eased myself into it.”

abbie-larkin Larkin (27) on her debut against Russia. Martin Seras Lima / INPHO Martin Seras Lima / INPHO / INPHO

Her Shels counterpart Jess Ziu was her roommate, along with Wexford Youths teenager Ellen Molloy, while former Reds Ciara Grant and Jamie Finn also acted as familiar faces.

Football has always been Larkin’s “number one,” and joining the Tolka Park outfit gave her “a confidence boost”. She played Gaelic football in her younger years, but wasn’t a major fan, while she still does horse-riding but football remains the priority.

Playing with Cambridge Boys throughout has offered endless benefits for the Ringsend native, too, and that certainly shows.

There’s words of thanks for all the coaches and big figures that helped her along the way, from Jonathan Tormey, who’s been there from the start, and her first Shelbourne manager Casey McQuillan – now the proud holder of her first Ireland jersey – to King, Pauw and the legendary “Pearlo” Slattery.

Nothing could have ever prepared her for the past few months, though; the attacker catapulted into the public eye in the first WNL game before the TG4 cameras last October. Larkin found the back of the net six minutes in and added an assist late on, repaying Noel King’s faith after catching the eye with the Ireland U17s.

Again, it was a surprise.

“I wasn’t really expecting to start that day either,” Larkin admits. “I was in the dressing room and they were just saying to me, ‘Ah, congratulations!’ I was like, ‘On what?’ and they were like, ‘You’re starting.’ I wasn’t really prepared to start, but it was a good day to.

“It was kind of nerve-wracking since it was being recorded as well. There was a lot of people there, but I kind of just focused on the game and what I normally do. To score a goal as well was amazing.”

abbie-larkin-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Celebrating that Shelbourne goal. Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO Brian Reilly-Troy / INPHO / INPHO

The increase of standards and intensity from U17s to seniors with club and country is clearly evident, but Larkin takes it in her stride.

Just like she does with school, and balancing it all. “It’s probably harder since I’m not in school that much, because of football, to focus on the school work, but my teachers are helping me out and we have some study breaks for 17s when we’re away for a long camp,” she notes.

“We just do it then, it’s kind of up to me. It is hard though. It’s very stressful sometimes, but I have to get on with it.”

A big few months lie ahead, with her goal for the season to break into the Shelbourne starting XI and play a part in their Champions League endeavours. Her immediate focus is with the Ireland U17s, who assemble for camp on Sunday ahead of their European Championship qualifiers against Slovakia, Finland and Iceland at Tallaght Stadium.

“It’s all exciting,” she beams, staying with the underage side for now but not ruling out potential involvement in next month’s all-important Sweden World Cup qualifier camp.

“I didn’t want to leave the 17s because obviously, the bond I made over the years is with them, and we obviously know how each other play, and I think have a good chance this Euros to qualify.”

She’s not afraid to look further down the line, either, already decided on her ideal route post-life at Ringsend College as she looks to pursue a full-time career in football.

“I’ve put a bit of thought into it now,” Larkin nods. “I’m thinking I kind of want to go abroad to play in the WSL. I’m not thinking of going to college, I think I’m just going to try focus on trying to go professionally.

“And then further down the line, if I make it in the WSL, if I’m around 25, 26, then I might start and see if I can study Sports Management or stuff because I have my coaching now, I’ve been doing my coaching badges [with the FAI], so even if I need anything to fall back on, I have that.”

The pathway is there nowadays, and Larkin is intent on following it.

Katie McCabe and her Arsenal team-mate Vivianne Miedema are two players she looks up to and aspires to be, so it’s fitting that she’s in the exact same spot McCabe was a few short years back.

“Definitely,” Larkin concludes. “Like the way Katie went up into WSL and her standard’s been so good. Even bringing it to the seniors when I was in, you could tell how much of captain she was.

“It was unbelievable. And she obviously brought the standard in as well. Yeah, hopefully I could be like that in the WSL too.”

The sky really is the limit.


Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel