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'There's been too many hard luck stories' - no regrets over retirement U-turn as Ireland eye next level

Qualification for a first major tournament is ‘long overdue,’ says Áine O’Gorman.

Áine O'Gorman.
Áine O'Gorman.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

A LITTLE OVER a year on from her international retirement U-turn, Áine O’Gorman is more than happy with her decision.

The Ireland star originally bowed out in 2018, with 100 caps and 13 goals to her name after a colourful career. 

But Vera Pauw came calling for O’Gorman, who plays her club football with Peamount United, and the 31-year-old answered and played a key role for the Girls In Green in their European qualification bid.

While the side fell just short, the Wicklow native was pleased to return — and is on board for the upcoming 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign.

“Obviously I would have regretted it if I didn’t take the opportunity when it came around,” she said at the launch of Aviva Soccer Sisters Virtual Skills Hub today.

“I’m really happy to be involved. It felt like I never left to be honest. Maybe the little break did me good. [I'm] refreshed and recharged and ready to go again, so we’ll see what the future holds.

“You always look at it as a [complete] campaign. Obviously with games coming up and preparations for the campaign, I’m looking forward to the draw and the World Cup. You go fully committed. It’s all or nothing for me whether you’re in or out for the campaign or not. We’ll what happens and how it goes.”

O’Gorman was pleased to see Pauw’s contract renewed recently. The Dutch boss will guide this promising team into qualification for the next — and importantly, expanded — World Cup.

“It’s obviously great that you can continue going from one campaign to the next campaign and start to build a nice bit of momentum, so I think everyone’s really excited.

“Hopefully we’ll get in for a few friendly games to prepare and then the draw for the World Cup as well and hit the ground running. So, yeah, exciting times ahead.”

On the upcoming draw, which is pencilled in for Friday, 30 April, she added:

“It’s a bit of a lottery, isn’t it? So we’ll just have to wait and see. I think the last qualifying group we had was particularly tough. We had Holland and Norway. Holland were actually second seeds in the group but were European Champions at the time, so it was a very tough draw for us.

“I don’t think we will be fearful of any opposition we come up against. We know how tough it is to qualify for a World Cup but before that, we are just looking forward to getting back in together as a team and getting that preparation under our belt.

“You go into every campaign and you want to qualify and do the best you can in your group and beat the opposition. Take it one game at a time; it can be quite a long campaign and hopefully at the end of it we can qualify for a first major tournament. It’s long overdue to take that next step.”

The Ireland centurion admits that she feels that qualification for a major tournament feels closer right now than at any point in her international career, which began in 2006.

Ukraine broke Irish hearts last time out, as they booked their Euros playoff place while Germany finished top of the group. As O’Gorman alluded to, the previous campaign — 2019 World Cup qualification — also ended in disappointment under Colin Bell.

And that’s just the previous two bids. But O’Gorman is hopeful.

aine-ogorman-and-rebecca-egan O'Gorman and Rebecca Egan from Knocklyon United FC’s Football For All programme during the launch of the 2021 Aviva Soccer Sisters Virtual Skills Hub. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“There’s been too many hard luck stories,” she deadpans. “We need to learn to handle the pressure in games as well.

“We reached a playoff in 2008 for the Euros against Iceland, and that’s the closest we’ve come. It’s probably disappointing that we haven’t come closer sooner. The players are there. You look at the array of talent and the players coming through.

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“There’s a good mix of youth and experience — Denise [O'Sullivan] and Katie [McCabe], players that have been around a long time, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Niamh Fahey, who are at the top of their game as well. We’ll have to see how the draw goes and take it one game at a time and prepare the best we can.”

For now, O’Gorman’s full focus is on the return of the Women’s National League [WNL] this weekend, and her day job as a personal trainer and gym instructor — all done from home, of course.

“It’s zoom overload, I’m zoomed out at the moment,” she laughs. “The brighter weather is coming in and it’s good to get outside and get active, for your mental and physical health.

“January was the toughest month for me. There was no football. It was dark and dreary as well and we didn’t know where it was going. Hopefully there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“Everyone just keep active, keep going, get out for your walks, runs, cycles — whatever makes you feel good. You’ll never regret it. You’re one workout away from a good mood, that’s what I always say!”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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