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From one Euro blow to another Euro dream: O'Gorman relishing big Champions League challenge

Peamount United captain Áine O’Gorman leads her side out against all-conquering Scottish kingpins Glasgow City on Wednesday.

THERE’S NO DOUBT about it: playing in the Champions League is something every footballer across the continent of Europe dreams of.

peamount-united-media-day Peamount United captain Áine O'Gorman. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Áine O’Gorman is no different despite doing it all before, and the smile on her face says it all on a dreary Monday morning as the Irish international prepares to captain Peamount United in their one-legged qualifier against Scottish kingpins Glasgow City on Wednesday [KO 7pm, live on GCFC TV]

“Everyone’s really excited and looking forward to the trip,” she begins, as the south Dublin outfit make the journey across the water tonight. “It’s obviously been a long time coming around now. With Covid it got postponed in August, and then again in October as well, so the format’s changed slightly different.

“But it’s really exciting and everyone’s buzzing to get going.”

None more so than Wicklow native O’Gorman, who simply can’t wait to get back on the biggest stage and banish the heartbreak of Kiev 10 days ago. Her 104th cap is one she’d rather forget as the Irish centurion was involved in a nightmare own goal situation against Ukraine, which has dearly cost the side’s Euro 2022 qualification hopes.

The 1-0 defeat is understandably still very raw, but this is the ideal opportunity for O’Gorman and Peamount’s international cohort to bounce back: “Obviously, it’s nice to get back out playing again after the disappointment of the game in Kiev.

“Look, we’re all looking forward to it. We’ve got quite an experienced squad as well. I know their team is full of Scottish internationals. We have past and present and underage internationals in our team as well. It should be a good game, and we’re just looking forward to the challenge.”

The reigning Women’s National League [WNL] champions have enjoyed strong league form with momentum at their backs as we hit the business end, and the 31-year-old believes that will work in their favour. 

But she won’t shy away from the tall order that lies ahead at City’s Broadwood Stadium.

Glasgow are eyeing 14 domestic titles in-a-row — though not yet fully professional like their counterparts Celtic and Rangers — having reached the quarter-final stages of the Champions League last season before exiting at the hands of eventual finalists Wolfsburg.

It’s a challenge O’Gorman and her side are relishing though, as they come up against some familiar faces on their European adventure.

“Obviously, there’s great Irish interest in the game with Tyler Toland recently going on a loan move to Glasgow and Clare Shine as well. Two hugely talented players, so that just goes to show you what we’re against, let alone that they’re full of Scottish internationals and they got to the quarter-final last year.

tyler-toland Tyler Toland plays her club football with Glasgow after her loan move from Manchester City. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“They’re very experienced in the Champions League. It’s something that’s quite new to a lot of our players as well. You can’t forget that they’re a professional set-up as well and we don’t have that status quite yet in our Peamount team. We’re obviously an amateur status, but we’d have a very professional attitude.

“It’s a one-off game against a team that competed in the quarter-finals last year. We just have to go out and give everything we have and play to our ability. I think we have the players and the squad to get a result.”

Having “no fear,” embracing the challenge and performing to the best of their ability is something she touches on quite a lot, something she did herself when Peamount played against PSG at this level in 2011.

While they made history in doing so and dared to dream, the Greenogue outfit were beaten 2-0 at Tallaght Stadium, and 3-0 in the return leg. It was still an impressive feat, though, against a team of PSG’s calibre.

The same applies this time around and there’s a significant gap off-the-field, but O’Gorman won’t pay a whole lot of attention to that.

“They’ve dominated the league in Scotland for over 10 years,” she nods. “It’s probably from their resources and what’s put into the team as well.

“Some of our best Irish internationals have been there throughout; Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Noelle Murray’s been there, now Clare Shine and Tyler Toland so they have a strong Irish connection and they seem to be able to attract them kind of players with a really good set-up.

“Watching the games, they played the first game of the season against Celtic and came out 2-0 winners and it could have been more on the day I think. They are so dominant but I’m sure they’re getting a lot of competition in training, they are full time. Look, they have that Champions League experience as well.”

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“I think we’re probably a little bit off that at the moment,” she adds, when asked about the competition here and whether it has the potential to turn professional, “but I think it’s something that we should look to be aspiring to, that the clubs in the league can go at least semi-professional and then kick on to their have professional set-ups.”

aine-ogorman-celebrates-with-the-trophy-after-the-game O'Gorman and Peamount after winning the league last season. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Having aspirations is key after all, and O’Gorman certainly has those ahead of this glamour tie across the water and the “really intense end” to the domestic season.

Retaining their title here is paramount — they currently sit one point behind leaders Shelbourne with a game in hand — while they’re still in the running for the FAI Cup, but for this Peamount side, it’s all about the European dream right now.

Squad depth is massive, she says, and the competition for places is healthy.

There’s a nice mix of youth and experience between the likes of O’Gorman — “they think I’m ancient at this stage!” — Karen Duggan, Stephanie Roche and Niamh Reid Burke, alongside rising youngsters Della Doherty and Becky Watkins, and new additions Alanna McEvoy and Sadhbh Doyle as well.

But it’s now about everyone going out with no fear, embracing the challenge and enjoying this massive opportunity to represent their beloved club in the Champions League.

“It’s amazing,” O’Gorman concludes. “That’s what you kind of thrive to win the league for, to play in Europe and represent your club and ultimately represent Ireland as well in European competition.”

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