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Alamy Stock Photo Heather O'Reilly retired from international football in 2016.
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Former USA superstar Heather O'Reilly Shelbourne bound after retirement u-turn
Champions League football was a long-time ambition for the World Cup winner, with Arsene Wenger the catalyst to her decision.

FORMER USA SUPERSTAR Heather O’Reilly has come out of retirement — to play for Irish side Shelbourne in the Uefa Women’s Champions League.

O’Reilly, a World Cup winner and three-time Olympic gold medallist, announced the news on the BBC World Football podcast, which she co-hosts.

The 37-year-old explained the reasons behind her decision and this unprecedented move to the Women’s National League side on the latest episode of the show today.

“I am somebody that chases their dreams,” O’Reilly began. “It’s a little bit obsessive sometimes when I get an idea because usually I have to see it through.

“I had a long, successful, trophy-ridden career and I am very proud of that, but there was this one hole on my resume that I never played Champions League football. It was a disappointing end to my time over with Arsenal when I wrapped up with them in 2018, it irked me, it bothered me. It was always a thing in the back of my head.”

Now a mother of two, O’Reilly took part in Soccer Aid this summer, where legendary Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was her manager, and he suggested she should get back playing and chase the Champions League dream.

“Arsene Wenger was the catalyst to get me out of retirement,” she laughed, “get the boots back on and give it a go with Shelbourne FC.

“I reached out to them. I don’t know if it was known that I was interested in coming out of retirement. It has been three years nearly since I officially retired from club football. People needed to know that I was interested.

“How I came upon Shelbourne FC, obviously with the name O’Reilly, there is some Irish ancestry in my family. When I was contemplating what clubs would be interesting to me and what clubs I felt I could make an immediate impact on, I thought about Shelbourne. They’re the champions of Ireland, they had a very successful season last year in order to win the league, but they are still very much a club and a league that needs a lot of growth.

world-xi-manager-arsene-wenger-second-right-chelcee-grimes-carli-lloyd-and-heather-oreilly-during-a-training-session-ahead-of-socceraid-at-champneys-tring-wigginton-picture-date-friday-june-10 Alamy Stock Photo Heather O'Reilly (left), Carli Lloyd and Chelcee Grimes with World XI manager Arsene Wenger during a training session ahead of SoccerAid. Alamy Stock Photo

“Some of my former team-mates are Irish: Denise O’Sullivan at North Carolina Courage, Louise Quinn and Katie McCabe at Arsenal. They are producing some wonderful talent but they need a lot of help with their league in terms of resources and professionalism. I think that’s sort of part of why I’m going as well. I feel that I could bring some eyeballs onto this league, bring some eyeballs onto this team and grow the game a little bit whilst living out this dream of mine to play Champions League football.”

O’Reilly confirmed that she, her husband and two boys will live in Portmarnock, and shared her delight that her children will see her in action as a professional footballer.

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“A lot of people will look at this, raise some eyebrows and think that this is an interesting career move, but I’m chasing my dream. I had this unchecked box and I’m looking to go do it, and for good reasons. I’m thrilled about it, the club is thrilled about it, and I think it’s one of those situations where it’s just a win-win all around.”

Noel King’s side’s opening Champions League game against ZNK Pomurje will take place in the Slovenian town of Murska Sobota on 18 August. Valur of Iceland and Armenian club Hayasa are also in Shels’ group for the four-team mini-tournament

After losing big names Saoirse Noonan, Jess Ziu and Chloe Mustaki to England in the mid-season break, the Reds have also bolstered the squad with the recent additions of Emma Starr, Izzy Glennon and Courtney Maguire.

The club are yet to officially announce the O’Reilly coup. “Wheels up,” she wrote on Instagram today, accompanied by an airport picture of her son.

In other WNL developments, Sligo Rovers have been boosted by the capture of Irish international and Donegal ladies football star Amy Boyle Carr.

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