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Ireland and Birmingham star Jamie Finn reaping rewards of full-time football

The 23-year-old is on an upward trajectory for club and country.

Jamie Finn meeting fans after the Ireland-Sweden game.
Jamie Finn meeting fans after the Ireland-Sweden game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE MORNING AFTER the night before, and everyone is feeling the after-effects.

Jamie Finn sums it up: the Republic of Ireland women’s national team “put in a real shift” against heavyweights Sweden, the side currently second in Fifa’s rankings, in their opening 2023 World Cup qualifier. The Girls In Green, on the contrary, are ranked 33rd and are yet to reach a major tournament.

The Birmingham City star is speaking from the squad’s base at the Castleknock Hotel, before their Saturday departure to Helsinki. The focus has already switched to Tuesday’s crucial clash with Group A’s second seeds, Finland, but Finn takes a moment to capture the overriding emotion of the group in Dublin 15 after the 1-0 defeat.

“We’re all proud of each other, I think we did show that we can compete against top opposition,” she begins.

“They’re second in the world and we really put it up to them, so we have to take the positives out of that and bring that forward. Not just leave it there last night against Sweden, bring it forward to Finland and hopefully get the three points.”

The 23-year-old operated in a right-back role for the first time for Vera Pauw’s side, usually patrolling the middle. But it wasn’t too far out of position, given she played there when she was younger and sometimes slots into the position at the Blues.

She’s keen not to get too carried away, but takes great confidence from the fact that Ireland were pushing for an equaliser down the home straight against such a high calibre  opposition, rather than sitting back to keep it at 1-0.

Pauw said afterwards that if Ireland play like that right through the campaign, they will reach the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. While Finn didn’t give away a whole pile on that early on in the conversation, she later said it was certainly attainable to make it.

“You have to believe that you will and hopefully we get there,” the Swords native smiled, with family in Perth, so visiting them for football would be an extra bonus.

jamie-finn Finn on the ball for Ireland, facing Sweden. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

With the race already heating up for second spot, and that coveted play-off spot, Tuesday’s tussle with Finland is likely to be vital. This game was always bigger than Sweden, after all.

“I suppose,” Finn says. “But we played well last night, at times we got the ball down and played, and showed that we can play, whether it’s Sweden or Finland, we’ll take confidence in that performance of knowing that we can play against top opposition and put it up to them.

“We’ll look to get the three points. I think you go into every game hoping that you get a result. We will bring the performance from Sweden into that game and be confident that we can get a result and hopefully by the end of it, we do. We need that confidence and belief that we can go out and do it.”

On an individual level, Finn has been finding that of late after her summer switch from Shelbourne to Birmingham City. There, she’s part of a seven-strong Irish contingent, and lives with former Shels team-mate Emily Whelan.

“It’s been good, obviously it’s a professional life so adapting to it. Playing tough opposition every single week and that’s what I wanted to improve and improve my own game.

“Being in the WSL, one of the best leagues around at the moment, instantly attracted me to Birmingham. And obviously a lot of Irish, from the team here, are there, so that always helps in the transition to a new club. Scott [Booth] is a great manager too, there is a lot of things that drew me to the move. But all going well so far so hopefully that will continue.”

It was always an ambition to cross the water; just a matter of when and where: “I was playing for Shels literally all my life but I always knew I wanted to go.”

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west-ham-united-v-birmingham-city-fa-womens-super-league-chigwell-construction-stadium Facing West Ham with Birmingham City. Source: PA

Having worked as a personal trainer at ALSAA gym before her move, Finn has understandably enjoyed the 100% concentration on, and commitment to, her sport.

“It’s nice just to have football to focus on, going training and I don’t have to worry about going to work and stuff like that, that’s nice in that way. Put everything into football and concentrate on that. I would have been on my feet a lot in work, and going staight to training afterwards. But I’m adapting well and hopefully that will continue.”

Full-time football seems to be really suiting her. Having just won her seventh Ireland cap, Finn has enjoyed a real upward trajectory on the international scene of late. Over the last while, she has gone from a squad player to a regular starter.

Her significant progress and notable improvements over the last year or so are clear to see, and Finn vows to keep it going.

“Obviously training full-time and in the WSL, one of the biggest leagues in the world at the moment, I’ll be improving,” she concludes, “it will take time as well. A new team and a new environment but I can see improvements and hopefully there are more to come as the season goes on.

“I come into every [Ireland] camp with the same kind of mentality that I have to work hard whether I was in the team the last camp or not. I don’t think my mentality changes and always give 100% and hopefully come matchday, I’m on the team sheet.

“I wouldn’t ever take it for granted that my name is just on it. I would just come in and give whatever I can and get an opportunity to be on the pitch.”

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