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'It was a no-brainer. I had to take that chance, and go to one of the best teams in the world'

Ireland defender Diane Caldwell recently moved to US side North Carolina Courage.

Diane Caldwell facing Belgium in a recent friendly.
Diane Caldwell facing Belgium in a recent friendly.
Image: Patrick Smets/INPHO

“THE AMERICAN DREAM,” Diane Caldwell smiles when she’s first asked about her new club football chapter at North Carolina Courage.

That sums it up.

In January, the Dubliner signed for the top National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL] side, North Carolina Courage, bringing the curtain down on her lengthy Bundesliga spell.

“It’s been going really well,” the former SC Sand star told the media as Ireland prepare for two important friendlies against Iceland over the coming days. 

“I’ve been there around two-and-a-half months now. I had a little bit of Visa delays with everything going on with Covid, but I was just happy to finally get there and catch the tail end of pre-season and the Challenge Cup.

“And now our league has begun and we have four games played in the league and I played in the last two, so I’m very happy with how it’s going so far.”

This is her second stint Stateside — though first as a fully-fledged professional player, having been in Long Island New York in her college years — and she’s delighted to be playing alongside Irish team-mate Denise O’Sullivan.

The Cork woman has been a star turn at the Courage since signing in 2017, and, of course, has helped Caldwell settle in.

O’Sullivan, in fact, played a hand in the move, texting the Balbriggan native to figure out her contractual status after “one of the best in the game,” Paul Riley, enquired.

“Denise is like a mother to me over there,” she laughs, “she’s always making sure I have my sun cream on before going out to training! I had to adapt to the heat but she’s taking good care of me and it’s great to have her there on the team with me.”

diane-caldwell-celebrates-scoring-the-first-goal-with-denise-osullivan Caldwell with O'Sullivan. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The move, she concedes, was quite “last-minute” but was one she grabbed with both hands when it came around.

“Within the last year or two, I had options, but nothing that really stood out to me,” she explained. “To be honest with you, I wasn’t really thinking about going back to America.

“I had kind of thought that chapter was closed after being there for so long in my college days – and obviously wanting to stay probably in Europe, to be closer to my family in Ireland.

“When the Courage came, look, it was a no-brainer. I had to take that chance, and go to one of the best teams in the world.”

Leaving Germany, where she was Sand captain recently, was certainly tough. “It was to be fair,” she nods. “I was very settled there, I was happy there. You have to make the decisions that are best for your career.”

That, Caldwell absolutely has, with her one-year contract with the option of a second year leaving her future reasonably secure as she hits the latter end of her career.

The doors Courage have opened could certainly extend it, as she approaches her 33rd year, with recovery and training facilities “probably the best I’ve ever had” bound t help her avoid injury and prolong her career alongside “some of the best players in the world” in a team environment on another level.

Caldwell will always “keep going to try reach new ceilings.” Surely the one of the most important of those would be reaching a first-ever major tournament with Ireland? 

The 2023 World Cup campaign which starts in September is the next chance. Could it be the last?

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Source: FAI TV/YouTube

“To be honest with you, I don’t really think about that,” Caldwell says. “I just listen to my body, how I feel and see my performance levels. If I felt like I was deteriorating because of my age, of course I would think about it.

“But I feel stronger and fitter than I ever was before so I mean, why would I stop? I don’t really put an age on it, I don’t put a campaign on it, I just see how I feel and see how long I can keep going for.

“I’m doing what I absolutely love and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. As long as my body is feeling good and my performance levels are good, why would I stop?”

She’s showing no signs of slowing down, that’s for sure, and will undoubtedly prove that again in the friendly clashes with Iceland tomorrow and Tuesday [both live on RTÉ Player and RTÉ News Channel from 6pm].

Off the back of two 1-0 friendly defeats at the hands of Denmark and Belgium, Vera Pauw’s side face another big challenge against a top-20 Fifa world-ranked side 

“They will be really tough tests, similar to the last friendlies against Denmark and Belgium and it’s great to have those sorts of tests against that calibre of team,” she concludes.

“We need to push on now against the likes of those teams. You saw from the friendly games that we can compete now with those types of teams and put in good performances.

“But now we need results and again it’s a great opportunity for us to have a really tough test.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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