late heroics

'That's one for the memory books - I can't put into words how unbelievable it feels'

Amber Barrett was Ireland’s hero last night as their 2019 World Cup qualification dream lives on.

THE CLOCK READ 78 minutes when Amber Barrett was sprung from the bench in Ireland’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Tallaght Stadium yesterday.

Amber Barrett celebrates at the final whistle Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The scoreboard read 1-1. Shortly beforehand, the visitors had just cancelled out Leanne Kiernan’s excellent opener as Ireland’s qualification dream hung by a thread.

With European champions The Netherlands coming to Dublin on Tuesday night, three points were vital against the basement side in Group 3.

Coming onto the field, Barrett knew what had to be done.

“Just raw emotion maybe,” she tells The42 on her way out of the grounds when asked about the feeling coming into the game, before the super sub is tackled by groups of young fans for pictures.

“We knew that we had to get a result and we did. We worked really, really hard to get it. We had to dig deep, but thankfully we did.”

It’s about the team, not her, she insists. But Barrett was Ireland’s hero last night.

87 minutes on the clock and she had the ball in the back of the net. In the lead-up to that golden moment, Player of the Match Karen Duggan played the ball over the top to the Peamount striker before she controlled it and blasted home.

Amber Barrett celebrates scoring her sides second goal with teammates Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Calm, collected, ‘cool as you like,’ as captain Katie McCabe said after, Barrett composed herself and fired the ball into the bottom corner despite Maria Korenciová’s fingertips connecting. Sheer power. Not a bad way to score your first international goal?

“That’s one for the memory books,” she grins.

“You do a lot of work to build up to these moments. To be honest, it was just one of those ‘just put your foot through it,’ no past thinking involved.

“But look, hugely proud for me and everybody involved. But that’s three points that we were looking for and thankfully we got them.”

The Donegal native can say that again, she’s done colossal work to earn the spotlight in that manner. She’s made some serious sacrifices to get to where she is today.

A fine Gaelic footballer and also a top athlete in her younger years, Barrett balanced the soccer and ladies football for as long as she could. She was an integral part of the Donegal side who are still in search of a first-ever All-Ireland senior title, but the promise of an international career swayed her.

Her form in the Women’s National League (WNL) caught the eye of Colin Bell, he called her into his squad for the 2017 University Games last August and having playing underage for the national side, she was catapulted into the senior set-up for the World Cup qualifiers.

She made her debut against Northern Ireland off the bench last September before starting, and playing 45 minutes of Ireland’s huge 0-0 draw against The Netherlands in Nijmegen.

Dropped to the bench today, she came on with a point to prove. And that she did.

As her late winner rattled the net, the crowd in Tallaght — which amounted to 3,521 — were sent into raptures. The stadium erupted as she wheeled away, pulling off her jersey (which she was later yellow carded for) as her teammates swarmed her. The passion. The scenes. It showed just how much this result meant.

“You could tell by the reaction to Leanne’s goal how important it was,” she continues, deflecting the attention from her own effort.

“I think that just set us up nicely. Obviously we unfortunately conceded and then straight into, had to go then and start from scratch and we got there, we did. It was, it was tough. Even then after we scored, there was a couple of minutes left and they were coming at us again.

“We had to dig really, really deep and go to through that little bit of pain in the tummy when you’ve made the run. So, thankfully. I can’t put it into words how unbelievable it feels.”

Amber Barrett celebrates with Colin Bell at the final whistle Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The dream is still alive. But a mammoth task lies just around the corner with the Dutch arriving next week.

“All guns will be blazing for Tuesday night,” Barrett concludes before she’s pulled away. Simple as that.

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