'It means so much to me and my whole family' - Ireland's US-born Everton goalkeeper

Courtney Brosnan: ‘I’m just trying to invest everything I can into being the best for the Irish team and Everton at the minute.’

Courtney Brosnan (file pic).
Courtney Brosnan (file pic).
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

COURTNEY BROSNAN TAKES it all in her stride, both on and off the pitch.

Her positivity and happy-go-lucky nature shines through with each and every word she utters, as does her deep appreciation and gratitude for where she finds herself.

On this particular day, it’s the Castleknock Hotel in Dublin with the Ireland women’s national team. Last week, it was in the city of Liverpool with her new club, Everton.

In her younger years, home was the Short Hills section of Millburn, New Jersey.

Brosnan’s father’s parents were both born and raised in Ireland. Her grandmother is from Roscommon, her grandfather hailing from Kerry. Grandma and grandpa, as she refers to them, moved to the US when they were in their thirties, and her Dad was born there.

Representing Ireland and her family roots is really special for Brosnan. 25 now, she wore the green jersey at U17 and U19 level, before earning her first senior call-up in November 2018. Having dipped her toes into the US U23 set-up a few months beforehand, she hasn’t looked back since, thoroughly enjoying the journey to this point.

“Obviously, it means so much to me and my whole family,” she tells The42. “It was a big deal to my grandparents and my Dad, he’s so, so proud of his Irish heritage.

“Me and my sisters, that’s something that we’ve really loved growing up — in an Irish household, even though we have been in the US. When I had the opportunity, it was just amazing and I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. I just felt like it brought me closer to my heritage and everything like that, it was really cool.”

With no shortage of family on these shores, Brosnan’s international career has become a focal point for them all, and has allowed her to see more of everyone. “Obviously now that I’m here more often, my Dad’s cousins always reach out to me, to try to get together or come to the games, ” she smiles.

It’s always interesting to hear the different paths taken by goalkeepers. It’s not exactly the position every kid wants growing up. Some are just lumped in there and that’s that. But others go against the grain, and take to it early on.

Brosnan tried it all. She played outfield, and elsewhere. Her multi-sport background is one she is thankful for. “I was really into other sports, I loved basketball and other things like that where there was more hand-eye coordination.

I remember my Dad was like, ‘You should try the goal!’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ I just feel like I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m actually kind of good at this so I guess I’ll just keep going!’”

While her star began to rise, she didn’t just focus on football. She kept everything up for as long as possible, but knew a choice would have to be made in Millburn High School, with recruitment around the corner, and scholarships for university on offer.

“I feel like my parents were really good, they wanted me to be exposed to everything and make the decision for myself. It was never like, ‘You have to do this’ and ‘soccer only’ or whatever.

“Just eventually when you get a bit older and things get more intense and competitive at club level, college level, I knew I had to make a decision. I always loved soccer the most so I think it was a pretty easy decision for me to make.”

It all came together and Brosnan was recruited by Syracuse, where she played at the top collegiate level and studied Biology and Psychology on a pre-med track. She also holds a Master’s in Exercise Science.

After Syracuse, she spread her wings and headed for Europe, cutting her teeth at Le Havre in France. It was while there she got the Ireland call-up from Colin Bell, and a move to West Ham United soon followed.

Linking up with Irish team-mates, Leanne Kiernan and Ruesha Littlejohn, at different stages of her time there, Brosnan struggled to establish herself as the Irons’ first-choice, but she was happy to learn and grow.

The Covid-19 pandemic certainly made the latter end of her time there a little more difficult, the distance from home and family feeling further than ever. But always one to count her blessings and look on the bright side, she was delighted to have football as a focus and to keep doing what she loves.

Brosnan hopes to bring her game to a the next level now, both with Everton and Ireland.

Life at the Toffees has gone well so far. “I’ve been really, really enjoying it a lot,” she beams. “I feel like the girls have been great and the team environment and everything so I’m really excited for this year.

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“Obviously, it’s tough not having the Irish folk around. We’ve had a lot of new signings at Everton, so I feel like it’s good when there’s a lot of new people, you’re all getting to know each other. But the girls that have been there have been really welcoming, so I can’t complain.”

The “very competitive but supportive” GK union is another pleasing aspect. Sandy MacIver has continued in the number one jersey from last season, but anything could happen in football. “I’m just trying my best to break in and prove myself,” Brosnan says.

That’s also the case with the international set-up; Grace Moloney emerging as the preferred first-choice ‘keeper in recent times with Eve Badana, Amanda Budden and Marie Hourihan among the others in and out of the set-up.

Obviously, the goalkeeper position is so unique. We’re all competing, everyone wants to play. But then again, these girls are also the only ones that know what it’s like to play that position.

“We’re really supportive of each other, and obviously, whoever it is playing, we want them to do their best for the team and help us win games. That’s the main thing.

“I think that’s what I love so much about the goalkeeping position too, that everyone plays it so differently. And that doesn’t make anybody better or worse, it’s just different styles. I think when you work with new people, it’s amazing because you can take things… maybe Grace does something different than me, or Eve, and I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe I could try that in my game’ and things like that.

“I think just working in different groups is really good and helps push everyone to improve and be their best self, if that makes sense.”

This week is all about working hard, performing and proving oneself — “then hopefully the game time will come but nothing’s really guaranteed in any position” — and then the focus is on building on recent off-field positive developments on the pitch.

“Every single camp, the level is raised,” she nods, seeing notable improvements despite a seven match winless run. Now, the target is driving on in next Tuesday’s international friendly against Australia, and then the 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign.

With plenty of strings to her bow, Brosnan is fully focused on being the best she can be for club and country.

“You always are thinking about other things, but obviously, right now, football is my main passion, my main priority. So obviously I’m just trying to invest everything I can into being the best for the Irish team and also for Everton at the minute.”

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Emma Duffy

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