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Childhood friends from Cork could make Ireland debuts in the same week

Saoirse Noonan will be hoping to emulate Chiedozie Ogbene when Ireland take on Iceland tomorrow.

saoirse-noonan Saoirse Noonan pictured during an in-house training match with Ireland in April. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland debut of Chiedozie Ogbene has added to Saoirse Noonan’s determination to capitalise on her own opportunity to establish herself at international level.

Noonan watched with delight on Tuesday evening as Ogbene came off the bench and immediately made a positive impact in Ireland’s goalless draw with Hungary.

It was a first outing with the Boys in Green at any level for the 24-year-old Rotherham United winger, who was born in Nigeria but grew up in Grange, Cork.

As well as learning the ropes alongside him on the streets of the southside suburb, Noonan played Gaelic football with Ogbene at Nemo Rangers.

She’s now hoping to emulate her childhood friend when Vera Pauw’s Ireland play two friendlies against Iceland in Reykjavik. The first is scheduled for tomorrow, with the second taking place on Tuesday (both at 6pm, live on RTÉ Player and News Channel).

“I grew up with him in my estate and we used to play on the same Gaelic football team because my dad was the coach,” she says of Ogbene. “We grew up close and we definitely have slagging that I beat him the odd time. 

“I’m delighted for him. I don’t think words could explain how happy he is. I think it’s something that he has always wanted to do and, now that he has, it has given me a boost that hopefully I can go and do it.”

chiedozie-ogbene-is-substituted-on-for-jason-knight-to-make-his-international-debut Chiedozie Ogbene enters the field for his Ireland debut against Hungary. Source: Attila Trenka/INPHO

Although Noonan featured in a meeting with Wales during a training camp back in 2016, involvement against Iceland would deliver a first senior cap for the attacker, who turns 22 next month.

“For me even just to be here is a huge opportunity, but at the end of the day it’s about what suits the team best,” she says.

“If I get my opportunity I’d hope to try and affect the score. Now that I’m in the squad I obviously want to try and get a few minutes. If I was to score it would be great, but it’s about whatever’s best for the team.”

A talented Gaelic footballer, Noonan played for Cork in their defeat to defending champions Dublin in last December’s All-Ireland final at Croke Park.

However, having moved from Cork City to Shelbourne in February with the intention of advancing her soccer career, she now has a sole focus.

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“Obviously I was playing GAA back in Cork, so I think if I stayed in Cork the GAA was probably too near to get at,” the 2017 FAI Cup winner explains.

saoirse-noonan Noonan on duty with Cork during last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Just making that move to Shelbourne and trying something different for myself and testing myself that way – because I’m away and I’m living in Dublin so I can’t go down for Cork GAA training – it just seemed like a move that I wanted to do and thankfully now I’m here, so I’m going to enjoy the opportunity.”

As for her future in Gaelic Games, the Shels star says: “For now I’m just focusing on the soccer. It was my focus to try and break into Vera’s team. Now that I’m here, I just want to enjoy the experience, soak it all in, hopefully be involved in future camps as well and maybe the games this week.

“That’s my focus for now and GAA will always have a place in my heart, but right now it’s all about Shelbourne and the Irish team.”

About the author:

Paul Dollery

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