Courtney Brosnan and Seamus Coleman are both key players for Ireland and Everton. Inpho.
Number One

'Seamus was one of the first to come up to me, give me a hug and say how proud he was'

Ireland’s US-born goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan on sporting role models, life at Everton and facing the world champions.

COURTNEY BROSNAN HAS ensured she will go down in Irish football history.

The US-born Ireland goalkeeper was sensational through World Cup qualification, crucially saving a penalty in the historic play-off at Hampden Park and currently enjoying a run of seven clean sheets in-a-row.

Reflecting on that monumental night in Glasgow brings a smile to her face every time.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” she says. “You talk about qualifying for the World Cup as a footballer, something that everyone dreamed of since they were a kid… so to be able to do that and to be able to play such a pivotal role in that, saving the penalty, it really, really means a lot to me. It’s really special.”

A native of New Jersey, Brosnan is back in the States as Ireland gear up to face the world champions in friendlies in Austin, Texas tomorrow [KO 7.30pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2] and St Louis, Missouri on Tuesday.

The Everton shot-stopper is well-versed to speak about the games from all angles, having grown up in the USA watching the all-conquering women’s national team and crossing paths with some of those involved.

She played with goalkeeper Casey Murphy for years. They lived 20 minutes from each other and shared the goalkeeping duties on the hugely-successful NJ Players Development Academy [PDA] team. They have remained good friends and have been texting back and forth in anticipation of the reunion.

“It’s amazing for me to see her do so well in the NWSL and on the US team. And it’s cool for her to see me do well for Ireland and over in the WSL,” Brosnan nods, having also come across Andi Sullivan and Ashley Hatch on the college scene.

“It’s a great shot for us to prepare for the World Cup and I think it’s really special to be able to play against the world champions,” she continues. “Really looking forward to it.

“And obviously being back in the US, having some friends and family come, it’ll be cool for me as well. In Austin, my Dad’s going to be there and I have quite a few friends from back home in New Jersey, friends from growing up that are coming. A big group, and then my Mom and sister are meeting my Dad in St Louis, so they’ll be at that one as well!”

Brosnan doesn’t have to think too hard when she’s asked about her sporting heroes from the American side growing up.

liverpool-uk-6th-nov-2014-tim-howard-of-everton-uefa-europa-league-everton-vs-lille-goodison-park-stadium-liverpool-england-6th-november-2014-pic-simon-bellissportimage-csm Tim Howard. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Unsurprisingly, she points to the goalkeeping contingent: Briana Scurry and Hope Solo from the women’s team, but a certain men’s number one takes centre stage.

“I always looked up to Tim Howard. He was a big one for me because I feel like he was one of the first US goalkeepers to make it over in the Premier League and over in Europe. He was always someone I really, really looked up to.

“It’s very cool to be at the same club as him now. Seamus Coleman is obviously someone I’ve always looked up to as well — I think they’re both like over 350 appearances in the Premier League, so you can’t really get two better role models, one on the Irish side, one on the American side, so it’s pretty cool.

Seamus is a great guy. I think everybody knows that and I think something that sticks out for me, when I got back to Everton after we beat Scotland and qualified, he was one of the first to come up to me, give me a hug and just say how proud he was, how the whole country was behind us and that they were really excited for us and it made it really special for me. I think that just shows his character and how special of a guy he is.

Life at the Toffees has been going quite well for Brosnan recently. The 27-year-old struggled for game time in the past but has turned in some excellent displays of late, stealing the headlines after last month’s Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park.

“I’m really happy with the performances I’ve been putting in with Everton. It’s great to get those games under your belt and keep moving forward. Every time I step on the pitch, whether it’s for Ireland or Everton, I’m just trying to put my best foot forward and do the best for the team. It’s been nice for me to have some solid performances and I’m hoping to keep continuing that on into the summer.”

Brosnan had a similar triumph over adversity for Ireland. She’s been at the centre of some high-profile errors and has come in for heavy criticism in the past, slipping down the pecking order, but she has made the number one jersey her own this campaign.

She hasn’t conceded since the 1-1 draw with Sweden in Gothenburg last April.

Outstanding saves, assured performances, impressive distribution; Brosnan is a key, vocal leader for Vera Pauw’s side, having progressed and matured massively.

courtney-brosnan-saves-the-penalty-of-caroline-weir Brosnan saving Caroline Weir's penalty in Hampden Park. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Like I’ve always said, I’ve always really believed in myself and had the confidence that I was capable of putting in these performances and playing for this team. It’s nice to see how that’s progressed and see how I’ve been able to perform. We’re just looking to keep moving forward and do the best we can.”

Extending the clean sheet run to eight in-a-row, or nine in 10, against the US would be a massive statement.

Only one opposing goalkeeper has managed to keep one in their last 20 competitive games, and Brosnan is eager to join the prestigious club.

“There’s no denying the special team that they have and the forwards, the attacking players they have are world class,” she concludes. “So I think we’re just trying to go in there and put in the best performance we can as a team and prepare for the World Cup in the best way that we can.

“For me it would be really special to be able to keep a clean sheet and like I’ve always been upfront about, I just try to do the best I can for the team and fulfil the role that we need from me. So I’ll be looking to do hopefully the same during the time here in the US.”

Oh, and she’s quietly confident of another penalty save if necessary in the double-header.

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