©INPHO/James Crombie Campbell (right) celebrates with Amanda Budden after their 3-0 win over Ghana in last year's U17 World Cup.
# Living in America
American Dream: Campbell eyes up professional future stateside
Ireland’s U17 hero hopes to make a name for herself when she moves to America in the autumn.

TWELVE MONTHS AGO, few people outside the Drogheda suburb of Greenhills knew the name Megan Campbell.

Indeed, many of the most avid Irish football supporters would have struggled to pick Campbell or any of her teammates on the Irish Women’s U17 team out of a crowd.

Then came the goal that changed everything. A 30-yard free-kick, perfectly struck by the young Irish left-full, which gave Ireland a 1-0 win over a previously-unbeaten Germany in the semi-finals of the U17 European Championships.

The rest, as they say, is history.

With the buzz of Nyon and the team’s subsequent run to World Cup quarter-finals in Trinidad and Tobago still very much a part of Campbell’s life, the 17-year-old could be forgiven for finding it difficult to focus on the new set of challenges which lie ahead.

“It’s been a brilliant twelve months, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Campbell said yesterday at the launch of the An Post FAI Summer Schools for 2011. “I’m still trying to settle back down and get back to playing football.”

Like most girls her age though, Campbell does have to another small off-pitch matter to think about over the next couple of months.

As a sixth-year student in Our Lady’s College, Greenhills, she is preparing to sit the Leaving Certificate in June, hoping that she’ll get the necessary results which will allow her to take up the offer of a scholarship in America next year.

She caught the eye of a few coaches during Ireland’s pre-World Cup training camp in Miami and has decided to take up the offer of a four-year degree at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), a decision which she hopes will open the door to a professional career stateside.

I’ll get a degree out of it in four years and I’ll go to college over there and play for the university team.

Hopefully then I’ll get scouted and I’ll get to play professionally in the States.

Although Campbell clearly has her heart set on a career in the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer, the female equivalent of the MLS), she is adamant that the decision to move to America won’t impact on her commitment to the Irish team.

Her next competitive action will be when Dave Connell’s side travel to Portugal in September for the first phase qualifiers of the Women’s U19 European Championships. There they will face off against Hungary, Israel and the hosts in a round-robin group with the top two teams progressing to the next stage.

By then, Campbell hopes to have settled in nicely to life in middle America.

“I’ve asked the college to release me,” she said, “and I’m getting that written into my contract before I go away to make sure that I will be available to play.”

“If I’m not, then I don’t think I’ll be heading that way.”