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'Vera said to us, ‘Remember this feeling and this is not going to happen to us again'

Irish striker Amber Barrett talks international ambition and getting back to action with her club in Germany.

Amber Barrett.
Amber Barrett.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

THE IRISH WOMEN’S national team are, lamentably, amid a long idle stint these days. Having been beaten to second place in their European Championship qualification group by Ukraine – last week’s play-off would have paired them with Northern Ireland had they made it that far – they are on the sidelines until World Cup qualifying gets underway in September. (They will learn their opponents at next month’s draw.) 

The FAI have nonetheless tied up some business in extending Vera Pauw’s contract, and for striker Amber Barrett, the next few months is about hoarding the hurt and the lessons from the campaign just gone as motivation for the challenge ahead. 

“I think that we just have to use every little bit of hardship and every disappointment and bring that into the next campaign. Unfortunately, over the last couple of years it just seems that we have been that close but that we just end up missing out, and it was the same with the last campaign, which I think most of the girls would agree was definitely the most disappointing that we’ve had over the last number of years.

“It’s something we will be taking into the next campaign, and you know one of the first things that Vera said to us after the Germany game at home was: ‘Remember this feeling and this is not going to happen to us again.’”

amber-barrett-dejected-are-the-game Barrett after Ireland's Euros campaign came to an end against Germany last year. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Barrett’s idle time at club level is happily drawing to an end. She plays in Germany with Koln, who dropped into the German second tier last season. The table has been split into two separate conferences for this season, with Koln top of their section with three wins from three. 

The league came to a halt last November, though is returning on 21 March and will finish out with two rounds of games as planned, despite some earlier murmurings of shortening the season to a single round. 

Barrett joined Koln last season and was part of the relegated squad, and is keen to return to the rhythm of playing games and, above all, to win promotion. Broadly, it’s an experience that is standing to her. 

“It is a cliché but every day I go into training, I take something from it. I am very lucky that I have players on my team who have won the Women’s Champions League, the German league and German Cup. These are players who have played with some of the best players in the world and who have been successful.

“Seeing how they put themselves about in training, how they act, the little extra bits they do, it has made me aware of things I need to get better at. My hold-up play is something I work on every day. As a striker, as well as running in behind, which I’m good at, I need to be able to hold the ball, lay it off and bring others into the game, and make it difficult for defenders.

“The physicality of it, it’s elite. You are running and running. It’s being able to withstand that and thankfully being exposed to that in training helps when you go out to games.

“Honestly, every day I am taking something away from it. I am still working on my heading ability, which is non-existent at the minute. Over the next few months a lot of these things will come together.” 

She answers diplomatically when asked if she was disappointed by a relative lack of game time under Pauw in the Euros campaign – “Of course I want to play but it’s not that Vera has this issue with me. The fact of the matter is that for the majority of the campaign Rianna [Jarrett] was training better than I was” – and says her international manager is clear on the aspects of her game she needs to improve. 

The last few months have offered a chance to adapt further to life in Germany, and absorb its differences to home…most notably its unforgiving bus timetables. 

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“It is a lot different. I think the biggest thing for me is that the public transport arrives on time, which, you know, in Ireland certainly never happens. That is a brilliant thing: if the bus is at half ten, you have to be there for half ten or you won’t be getting on it.

“I think that the whole corona experience has been a different one. It’s nearly gone back to normal here in many ways, but it’s not gone back to normal. There’s still a lockdown here, but they’ve started to ease things and I think more people are more confident about going out and about and obviously doing everything safely.

“To be honest with you, I haven’t really experienced the full Cologne and German experience because of everything was cut short last year but I’m hoping though when things seem to relax over the next few months that I might get to enjoy that side of it as well.” 

Her German is coming on too. 

“It is definitely improving. But I was asked to do a video today with a new sponsor in German, and I have no idea how I’ll do that. I’ll have to get google translate out!”

Amber Barrett was speaking to promote the Spar FAI School Zone. For registration and further details see https://www.fai.ie/domestic/spar-fai-school-zone/register/

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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