Cloud 9

Goals, awards and much more - Irish star Kiernan's electric start to life at Liverpool

Kiernan missed the recent World Cup qualifiers through injury, but could play a big part for the Girls In Green going forward.

LEANNE KIERNAN’S LIVERPOOL form has been nothing short of electric this season.

Goal after goal, award after award; everything was pointing towards a big international window, and a potential return the Republic of Ireland XI.

That she looked lively during a recent cameo, sprung from the bench in the 74th minute of the opening 2023 World Cup qualifier defeat to Sweden, also strengthened her case. Vera Pauw turned to Kiernan to inject some attacking intent, and she proved a bright spark.

She travelled to Helsinki for the win over Finland, but was held in reserve. Surely the Cavan star would have been given minutes against Slovakia and Georgia — she certainly would have enjoyed that one — but unfortunately, for Kiernan, she was absent from international duty.

The news landed last Monday, as players reconvened for camp at their base in the Castleknock Hotel.

“Injuries rule out Glasgow City’s Claire Walsh, Wexford Youths midfielder Ellen Molloy and Liverpool forward Leanne Kiernan,” an FAI statement read.

“Unfortunately, Leanne Kiernan won’t be going away with Ireland because she’s got a slight hamstring tightness, so we’ve got to be careful and protect her,” Reds manager Matt Beard added in a column shortly afterwards.

In that same piece, he hailed the 22-year-old’s prolific contributions since signing during the summer, her latest goal arriving in the previous Saturday’s 3-1 win over Sunderland.

“Leanne is scoring consistently for us now and is doing really well,” Beard wrote, having previously offered similar praise, also lauding her work ethic, attitude and personality.

The42 understands that Kiernan should be free to pick up where she left off through Liverpool’s December fixtures: the FA Cup game against Burnley on Sunday 12th, the Continental Cup clash with the Saints on Wednesday 15th, and the Championship meeting with Charlton the weekend before the Christmas break.

That will come as music to the ears of Liverpool fans, and Irish ones too.

Once all goes to plan over the coming days, of course.

leanne-kiernan Kiernan was lively when given her chance in the Sweden game. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Since making the move from West Ham to link up with her former manager, Kiernan has enjoyed a dream start to life leading the Reds’ line in the English second-tier.

With seven goals in 10 league matches – and 860 minutes played – she has already eclipsed her scoring total in three previous seasons at the Hammers (that’s leaving all other domestic action out of it, but she can add one Conti Cup goal to her Liverpool tally).

The latter end of her time in London was frustrating — hampered by injury and other difficulties, as she’s detailed with The42 before — and the drop down a division has certainly paid dividends; Kiernan’s confidence surely lifted, her rich vein of form and variation of excellent goals giving her a boost and spring in her step.

Within a matter of weeks, she established herself as a fan favourite (she’s a Manchester United one herself, but will keep that quiet): ‘Liverpool’s number nine’ is plastered on billboards across the city, and likewise here, appearing on numerous Sky ones alongside Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan.

That’s where Kiernan should be on the pitch, too, when all is going well. She had looked to have played herself into Pauw’s plans, bolstering the Dutch coach’s attacking options and giving her a headache as the World Cup qualifying campaign kicked off.

That she was up for media duty the week of the Sweden opener indicated that she would be involved. “I’m just enjoying it, life’s great at the minute,” she said at the time, her positive, happy-go-lucky attitude shining through.

It did, too, when she was handed her chance off the bench. Her pace caused the Swedes, the world’s second-ranked team, serious problems, as she offered a different type of threat to that of Heather Payne or Lucy Quinn.

Looking at the stats, she finished second behind Payne over explosive distance (the metres a player covers while accelerating and decelerating at high intensity) with 28.5km/hr her max speed. Likewise, 100% of her dribbles were successful, along with 75% of her passes. 

“Leanne is flying. It’s great to see her flying, it’s great to see her buzzing and scoring goals,” Niamh Fahey said afterwards, the Reds captain sharing some lovely words for her and Megan Campbell.

While Kiernan remained on the bench in Helsinki, she continued to hit new heights with her club upon her return; named both the Championship’s, and Liverpool’s, Player of the Month for October; a month she rounded off with her sixth goal in four games.

“I’ll take those stats but I wouldn’t be getting these goals if the girls around me weren’t putting them on a plate,” as she told Sussex Express after that one against Lewes, her modesty evident as always.

“It all starts from Lawsy [Rachael Laws] in goal, she’s been outstanding. It all starts with the clean sheets. These girls around me are brilliant. And Beardy. He brought us together at the start of the season and he’s really moulding us together as a good group of people.”

Unfortunately, she couldn’t link up with another group she holds close, as her Irish involvement for this year ended thereafter. Her absence from the recent double-header means 2021 yielded just two substitute appearances and 27 minutes in green.

Having broken in under Sue Ronan, and having established herself as a regular under Colin Bell, she’s yet to really re-emerge under Pauw.

Her cruel injury luck has certainly played a factor, and that it ruled her out of the 11-0 Georgia hammering is particularly unfortunate, with fringe players given their chance to impress and penetrate the selection process.

It would have been the perfect opportunity to showcase what she has to offer, and to add to her 22 caps and four goals, while she may have also brought something else to the table in the Slovakia draw.

With a big 2022 ahead and competition sure to intensify, if Kiernan keeps up her club form, it’ll be hard to leave her out.

She’s sure to impose herself on the campaign, if given the right opportunity. That may arise in a friendly or two before the Ireland’s bid to reach a first-ever major tournament resumes in April, as we hit the business end of the qualifiers.

In the meantime, though, Kiernan be hoping to continue her electric exploits at Liverpool as the Championship title race heats up.

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Leanne Kiernan was recently supporting her GAA club, Balieborough Shamrocks’ Win a Dublin City Apartment Draw.

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