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From childhood hero to champion team-mate, and following in the footsteps of legendary grandfather

Alannah McEvoy talks role models, football and family as she looks to cap a rollercoaster first season at Peamount United with the double.

AS PEAMOUNT UNITED basked in the glory of being crowned Women’s National League [WNL] champions for the second consecutive year three weeks ago, a simple tweet did the rounds.

Screenshot 2020-12-10 at 21.12.26 Source: Alannah McEvoy Twitter.

A delighted Alannah McEvoy got in on the, ‘How it started vs how it’s going’ trend, and posted two brilliant pictures that now have over 2.2k likes and have been shared endless times.

The first one shows a 12-year-old McEvoy smiling from ear-to-ear, with her gear almost bigger than her, holding a cup she won in action for Enniskerry. Standing beside her with an arm around the shoulder is Áine O’Gorman, kitted out in a Peamount tracksuit.

It was in 2013 at Enniskerry’s Belles in the Meadow tournament, a one-day blitz for local girls’ teams. In the second, the pair of Wicklow natives wear similar broad grins, but both are in Peamount kits and holding the 2020 league crown. Amazing.

“It’s so embarrassing,” McEvoy laughs, “She doesn’t know this at all, that I looked up to her so much. It’s because she used to play for Enniskerry. She was the player we always heard about, it was just her name all over the club: Áine playing for Ireland.

“Then when she was there that day going around like a celebrity, we were all like, ‘Oh my God.’ Áine was up just being Áine, being famous. We won and she was presenting medals. At the end, I got a photo with her — I was the only one that got a photo with her.

I don’t even think she knew that photo existed until I put it up. It’s funny though, I didn’t expect it to blow up the way it did. It just sums up the whole 20×20 thing, can’t see, can’t be. That was literally me looking at Áine being like, ‘I want to be like her.’

“Everyone was amazed by her and what she does. I could see that she came from Enniskerry and look at her now, kind of thing.”

“She doesn’t know any of this, she’ll know when she sees this,” 19-year-old McEvoy adds, with a laugh. “I was always so inspired by her and I thought she was great. It’s crazy now the fact that I’m playing with her. It’s mad.”

O’Gorman has done so much for women’s football in Ireland through the years; the 31-year-old has been a stalwart in the WNL between Peamount and UCD Waves, with 105 senior international caps earned either side of a brief retirement stint. 

For McEvoy to now be playing alongside her childhood hero — and lifting silverware with her, with more up for grabs in tomorrow’s Women’s FAI Cup final — is pretty special. But not even that, it’s training together night after night, and picking up valuable nuggets along the way from someone who has done so much.

aine-ogorman-and-alannah-mcevoy-celebrate-their-sides-first-goal McEvoy and O'Gorman celebrate a goal earlier this season. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It’s unreal,” the Bray teenager nods. “She’s such a professional. You can see even in training sessions and stuff, she hates losing — I know that by her! She always puts in 100% in everything she does.

“It’s just unreal playing with the likes of her and Karen [Duggan] and Steph [Roche], all the experienced players, you learn so much off them. I always did with Áine and now the fact that I’m playing with her, it’s just crazy like.”

The league title win was a special one for McEvoy, the granddaughter of former Irish striker Andy, as it was her first — though it came at the expense of a club very close to her heart, Shelbourne. 

Having spent three seasons at the Tolka Park outfit before making the switch to Peamount ahead of this season, it was winner-takes-all — one which the reigning champions won 3-1 after going one down early in the second half.

“It was unbelievable,” McEvoy smiles. “It was my first league medal, my first year at Peamount getting a medal. It was great. 

It was mad weird. It was just weird because obviously that was my old team, I love all the girls so much. I still talk to them all. It was kind of hard seeing… I tried to go over to every single one of them after.

“Loads of them obviously disappeared and walked off, I couldn’t see most of them but I tried my best. I don’t think anyone noticed that but I did try to go over to every player while Peamount were celebrating.”

The celebrations were enjoyable all the same, bottles of champagne popped left, right and centre, as O’Gorman hoisted the trophy in the air for the second year in-a-row.

And while it was behind closed doors, they had their nearest and dearest at the tight-knit family club there to toast the success. 

“To be honest, I’m wondering why they started winning when I left,” as former Peas star Amber Barrett laughed at the time, the Ireland striker now playing her football in Germany.

I was delighted for them when they came into camp, as I was last season. The quality is there. It’s a family club, and when they go over to Denis Cummins, that typifies the club they are. There was nobody more delighted than me in my kitchen in Cologne.”

McEvoy wholeheartedly agrees on the family feel, having thoroughly enjoyed her first season there. “That’s what Peamount is really good for, it’s just brilliant. They treat players and our team really well. I think that’s what makes us a good team. It just brings everything together for us. 

soccer-football-league-division-one-west-ham-united-v-blackburn-rovers McEvoy (centre) was joint-top scorer in 1964/65 alongside Jimmy Greaves. Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

After all, family and football have been two constants through McEvoy’s young life. She’s had a fire in her belly from the word go, stories about Andy driving her on for as long as she remember.

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“Football was always a big thing for me especially with my grandad,” she smiles. “My dad would always tell me about him. I just want to be like him, playing for Ireland and everything.

He obviously played for Blackburn Rovers as well in England. He was joint top-goalscorer in 1964/65 with Jimmy Greaves. Things like that would push me on, I’d love to be like that, like him. That’s all I want to do — go professional with football.”

That’s certainly the dream, and she makes no secret of that.

And having enjoyed a successful underage career in the green jersey, representing her country at senior level is another thing she hopes to tick off the list.

“I really, really want to do it,” she nods. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was younger, to try and get on the senior team. I’ll keep going as far as I can.

“I made the U15 squad, then went on to 17s, U19s. I’m finished U19s now, my next step is I want to make the senior team. I’m just going to keep working hard and doing what I’m doing. Hopefully then opportunities might come along to go professional in England or elsewhere.”

For now, it’s all about life on home soil, where she’s currently working full time in retail after finishing up a predominantly-online FAI development programme through the pandemic.

Times are certainly hectic, but she’s enjoying every minute of it — and that all comes down to her football at her new club, after life at Shels fizzled out.

I wasn’t really enjoying it the last season, my confidence dropped and stuff, I was in and out of the team; I just wasn’t enjoying it. I just thought change would be better.

“The opportunity with Peamount came around, James [O'Callaghan] and Vinnie [Patterson] were talking to me and helping me, they were saying how they’d love for me to play for them and how I’d play a good role in their team.

“I was impressed with what they delivered, and I think it was the best decision I could have made. It worked out really well.”

alannah-mcevoy-and-ciara-grant McEvoy facing Shelbourne in the league decider. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Well would be an understatement, some may say after a rollercoaster few weeks. While Peamount went back-to-back after another near-perfect league season, they also flew the flag with distinction in Europe.

It was heartbreak at the death against Glasgow City with penalties required to separate the sides across the water, but McEvoy takes great confidence from it all, having previously made her Champions League bow at 16.

“It’s been such a good experience, the past couple of weeks. It was tough with so much going on and so much to look forward to; the Champions League game and then obviously the decider with the league. It was good.

We were all so excited for everything, we enjoyed every moment of it. In training, we all put it in and think that’s what stood to us. We were obviously very, very unlucky in Glasgow but what an experience it was, it was amazing.

“I think we done Ireland proud as well, we showed the league well.”

She credits that experience for driving them on in the tail end of the league, with momentum building week on week. And she’s hoping that’s the case once again ahead of the FAI Cup final against Cork City at Tallaght Stadium [KO 3.15pm, live on RTÉ 2]. 

Coming in off the back of a 2-1 final league win over Wexford Youths, the mood is good and excitement is building ahead of the showpiece, though it has been moved out of the Aviva Stadium this year.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” McEvoy nods. “I haven’t played in Tallaght before. On the tely and all, it should be good.

It does make it better, the fact that we’re getting our own day. I know there’s been a lot going on the last few years with the men’s teams warming up and stuff at half time but at least we have our own day. It will get more recognition I hope.”

And ultimately, will it be a case of third time lucky for Peas, after back-to-back Cup final defeats at the hands of Youths?

“Our attitude and our passion’s been amazing the last couple of weeks, we just need to bring that in and we’ll be alright,” she grins.

“Obviously it’s a cup final and it can go either way. Cork are going to be up for it. If we just go out and play the way we have been, we’ll be okay I think.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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