SHE HAS SCORED more international goals for Ireland than Robbie Keane, but Olivia O’Toole says that carrying the Olympic flame will top all of her sporting achievements.
O’Toole, who has won over 130 caps for the Irish women’s team, was named yesterday as one of 41 torchbearers who will take part in next month’s Olympic relay.
The 40-year-old called time on a brilliant international career in 2007 after scoring 54 goals for the girls in green, one more than Keane currently has ahead of next month’s European Championships.
But that honour of being involved when the historic flame comes south of the border will beat captaining her country and even her prized international record.
“All my football achievements, everything, it ranks above them all,” O’Toole told TheScore.ie. “The only thing that would come close with the excitement and the nerves was scoring my first goal for Ireland against Spain [on her debut in 1992].
A native of Sheriff Street in Dublin’s inner city, O’Toole was nominated by Dublin City Council where she currently works as a play and recreation worker. Despite her success on the pitch, the news of her nomination came as a complete surprise.
“The Olympics wasn’t even in my head. It was completely out of the blue for me. I was gobsmacked.
“I couldn’t even tell my family. I wanted to jump around and tell everyone — ‘Can you believe what I’m doing?’ — but I couldn’t say anything. It was killing me not to be able to tell my mam of all people.”
It only really hit me when I was watching the news on Tuesday night. There was a young lad on who had been picked to do it as well, and he said that he only realised how big a deal it was when his dad reminded him that Muhammad Ali had carried the Olympic Torch.
I’m nervous about the whole thing just to make sure it goes ok and that I don’t let it drop or anything like that. There’ll be thousands of people out there; the people from the community will be going all out because we’ll never get this in Ireland again.
O’Toole is one of a long list of Irish sporting stars who will be involved in the six-hour event on 6 June, including Olympic gold medallists Ronnie Delany and Michael Carruth.
She still doesn’t know the final details of who she’ll be getting the torch from or handing it over to after her 300-metre leg but given a choice, she’d love to brush shoulders with another of the country’s football greats: Paul McGrath.
As for her record and Robbie’s chances of beating it in Poland next month, O’Toole promises that she’ll be cheering as loudly as anyone else if he can get a goal to help Ireland into the knockout stages.
I love the fact the fact that I’m the top goalscorer, boys and girls, but one day I knew it was going to get beaten and I knew he was going to do it. When he passed Niall Quinn’s 22 goals, I said he was going to do it and my words are coming true because he’s going to score in the Euros at some stage.
I was asked about it the other day and I said I don’t care if he scores the winner and beats my record against Spain, as long as we get through. That’s exactly how I feel.