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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Morgan Treacy/INPHO An ecstatic Amber Barrett.
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'Of course I miss GAA but every player in their right mind wants to play for Ireland in a World Cup'
Donegal’s Amber Barrett has been part of the international set-up for five years and feels ultimate success can be achieved.

THAT NAGGING VOICE in the back of her head doesn’t often pipe up but, when it does, it’s not hard for Amber Barrett to quieten it pretty quickly.

The 26-year-old Ireland striker has been around the squad for the past five years, amassing 29 caps and scoring four goals.

Her background as a promising Dongeal GAA star is well known by this stage, so much so that it’s a running joke with the team’s press officer that questions about it are no longer permitted.

And yet. Of course it always come up, especially now with Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign approaching a thrilling climax.

“There are times when I look at Donegal doing well and think ‘I’d have loved to have played in that game or played in Croke Park’. But the experiences I’ve had and the opportunities I’ve got over the last five years, the people I’ve met through football,” Barrett begins.

“Those experience of international games and international goals, being in so many high profile matches and pursuing a World Cup ambition is something very player in their right mind would make in that regard.

“Every day I am still trying to come to terms with it because I’m one of the luckiest people alive to get to represent Ireland and have this experience. Hopefully there is a long way to go yet.”

amber-barrett Ryan Byrne / INPHO Amber Barrett in training. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Like her playing style, the forward is energetic and engaging in conversation.

“Behind the scenes, the people who have put work in, getting people to trust this team, to support this team. Suddenly they get on board and see what they are in for. We are very, very lucky.

“There are so many diverse personalities in this squad, fantastic women from different backgrounds, parts of Ireland. All collectively going after one goal. The staff have been instrumental in that to motivate us.

“Long term we will blossom from that and I really hope I will still be part of that.”

That sense of broadening her horizons has been evident since leaving these shores in 2019 to play for Koln in Germany. A successful relegation battle last season provided a battle-hardened edge, and her place within the Ireland set-up is one she never takes for granted given how it has helped shape her own perspective.

“Yeah absolutely, When you come into camp, I’ve been in five years and a lot of the faces are very familiar. You can still have a very interesting conversation with every single person.

With the younger players coming in, you also get to know their thoughts and opinions on different things as well. Collectively there is no better group in the world than Irish people. I 100 per cent believe that. Being in Germany, sometimes you miss out on that wee bit of Irish craic.

“Thankfully when you come into camp there’s plenty of it, maybe too much at times. That’s also an important side of it too, it’s good to be in that environment with these people. There is never a dull moment.

“You cross paths with people. Never in a million years would you put yourself in this position. Ten years ago I would’ve never thought I’d be preparing for a World Cup qualifier.

“I would’ve never said it would be with this group of people. Thankfully we’re here and there are people I hope will stay in my life for a long time.”

But it’s the impact that success, namely reaching the World Cup finals, would have on those hoping to follow in their footstep which adds further fuel to Barrett’s fire.

“It’s crucial. That won’t just break the mould. It will also help get more young girls get involved. The interest grows from that. It would be great for us if we can achieve it but the knock on effect to the next generation is much more beneficial to the long term.

“Because we will have more players, more selections and in another 10 or 12 years there could be more talent.”

emily-whlean-and-amber-barrett-celebrate James Crombie / INPHO Barrett with Emily Whelan (left). James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Barrett has had to embrace different kind of challenges to eke out even more from her own ability, testing herself in Germany to fulfil whatever potential she has.

“I loved every minute of it. It was very diverse, you talk about the Champions League teams but even if you look a bit lower down the table. There are some absolutely top quality players in every team you play against.

“It makes you think a little bit quicker, react a little bit quicker and play a little bit quicker. I think that’s only going to help every player that gets involved in that environment.

I’ve been very lucky to play against the likes of Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, Frankfurt have also qualified for the Champions League. Riddled with top German internationals and other international players from other countries.

“Getting to play against them, you really do learn that it’s tough to get all the way.

“I think there’s a huge improvement that I see [in] myself. I hope when I get the chance to play, that can come through as well. Or else it would’ve been a big waste of time, but I don’t think it was.

“Being exposed to that high-pressure environment of training every day and playing against top opposition will only better you in the long run.”

She’s not quite fluent after three years.

“But I can order a coffee and that’s the most important thing.”

Ireland’s shot of energy.

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