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Dublin: 11°C Thursday 15 April 2021

'It was just me being realistic. I wouldn't have been happy sacrificing my education for football'

Republic of Ireland’s Harriet Scott decided to put her studies first but kept the faith that she might still have the chance to pursue international football.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND’S Harriet Scott never allowed herself to stress about whether her international career had passed her by.

Harriet Scott with Agla Maria Albertsdottir Jonsdottir Harriet Scott in action for Ireland in a friendly against Iceland earlier this year. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

After playing for Ireland at U17 and U19 level, she made the decision to prioritise her education ahead of football, meaning that any ambitions she had of breaking through to the senior ranks would have to be suspended for a while.

She was just 18 when she declined the opportunity to attend a training camp due to a clash with some important lectures as part of her studies as a physiotherapist.

It was a mature and practical choice to make, and not one that every aspiring footballer is inclined to go for, particularly when the riches of a sporting life appear to offer so much more at the time in their career.

But it was never something she even debated in her head, the sensible option was always the one that resonated loudest for Scott.

“I made that decision because I wanted to make sure I had something underneath me before I progress on to football,” she told The42 at a press conference ahead of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier against the Netherlands.

“It was a perfect opportunity because I managed to be able to balance a little bit of football with education. I think people should be going through education, even it’s just a small part alongside football.

I don’t want people to stop educating themselves because if football doesn’t go so well, you need to have something to fall back on.

“It was just me being realistic. My education was important to me, I study physiotherapy and I love that as a career as well. Having that as an option, I didn’t want to stop doing that.”

The path back to Ireland began with taking up an offer to play semi-professional football, which later evolved into a full-time contract with Reading in 2016, after the club gained promotion to the Women’s Super League.

Having originally joined the club’s academy at eight years of age, Scott helped the club maintain their place in the top flight of women’s club football in England before being awarded a contract extension earlier this year.

She was thrilled to be pursuing a new opportunity, but any hopes of getting an international call-up in the aftermath of the move, were something of a distant thought.

Sherifatu Sumaila with Harriet Scott Scott playing in the U17 World Cup against Ghana in 2010. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I honestly just put it out of my head a little bit,” adds Scott who qualifies for Ireland through her grandparents.

“I just thought that I needed to keep playing and if I’m good enough, maybe I’ll get a shout. I trusted that whoever was managing at the time was making the right decisions, and Colin thinks he may have made the right decision.

I wouldn’t have been happy sacrificing my education for football but equally I wouldn’t have wanted to give up football completely either.

“I was really fortunate at my club, so I got an opportunity to play semi-professional and that’s what helped me get back into it. And when I got the opportunity to go full-time professional, I took it with both hands.”

Her efficient approach to life as a professional player culminated in newly appointed Republic of Ireland manager Colin Bell offering her the chance to resume playing in the green jersey.

Source: FAI TV/YouTube

She made her debut in the Cyprus Cup earlier this year, and having clearly impressed in that tournament, she has since earned a starting berth in both of Ireland’s World Cup qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Slovakia.

Ireland came away from those fixtures with two crucial wins, as well as two clean sheets, with Scott playing her part in keeping Ireland’s defensive lines tight along the way.

She admits she was shocked to get the initial call from Bell, but was ultimately thankful that he decided to take a chance on her skills.

And with a third World Cup qualifier coming up against the reigning European champions Holland on Tuesday, she hasn’t had a spare second yet to drink in her rapid rate of progression in the squad.

“I’d been out of it for a while so I was involved with the U17s, I went to the World Cup with them and the Euorpean championships. I was involved with U19s a little bit and then kind of concentrated on education.

“I was just playing for Reading, keeping my head down, just trying to do well really and then found out that I’d be going to the Cyprus Cup and from there, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

We’ll see how it goes. I’m feeling good, training well, Colin is pushing us in the right direction. I’ve just been here at the right time being very lucky to be here. I’m embracing it.”

Scott has witnessed the cruelty of sport in recent weeks, following the terrible injury sustained by influential Ireland teammate Megan Campbell. The Man City player ruptured her ACL, which is a serious knee injury that could keep her on the sidelines for up to six months.

Campbell, along with Áine O’Gorman, Stephanie Roche and Claire Walsh are also absent from the Ireland squad through injury.

Scott assures that all of the players will be thinking of their teammates who can’t line out with them for the away fixture in Nijmegen, and will be drawing motivation from their absence as they prepare to take on one of the most formidable outfits in women’s international soccer.

Every single one of us will be thinking of all of them when we’re going out on the pitch because we know they would love to be there and would love to be stepping out on the pitch but that chance has been taken away from them, so we need to make sure that we’re doing it for them. They can’t help us on Tuesday.”

This is billed to be a sell-out game, with a crowd of some 12,000 spectators expected to be in attendance.

Harriet Scott Scott pictured at the Republic of Ireland Women's Press Conference on Friday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Considering the stand-off the players had with the FAI to secure better standards for women’s football in Ireland earlier in the year, this clash with Holland could offer a strong measure of how far Ireland have progressed since those new measures were introduced.

Scott reports that the team have already addressed the crowd issue in team meetings in order to prepare players who are not familiar with that kind of experience.

And it’s a prospect that Scott is already relishing.

“Some of us have played in front of big crowds and the time of personalities we have, a lot of the girls are spurred on by this competitiveness.

We might have however many thousands cheering against us and I actually think that’s going to spur us on. I can’t wait for it.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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