walks like rianna

'All we feel is proud of her... she's capable of bigger and better things'

Ireland star Rianna Jarrett will have a big say if Wexford Youths are to defend the FAI Cup on Sunday.

“SO, SO PROUD of her. So proud of her. It’s incredible what she’s doing.”

rianna-jarrett-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-second-goal Rianna Jarrett celebrating her goal against Ukraine. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

Wexford Youths captain Kylie Murphy almost can’t find the words when she’s asked about her side’s star striker Rianna Jarrett.

The Ireland international stole all the headlines after the Girls In Green’s recent Euro 2021 qualifier win over Ukraine at Tallaght Stadium. The hosts were 3-2 winners in Vera Pauw’s first game in charge, as the record crowd of 5,328 witnessed a masterclass in attack from the home-grown hero. 

Just one of three Women’s National League players in the squad, Jarrett was excellent up top as she scored her first senior international goal and chipped in with two assists en route to being named Player of the Match. A dream night for the 25-year-old, made even more special considering her incredible battle back from the brink and horrific injury woes — including three separate ACL setbacks. 

Understandably, there will be quite a lot of attention on Jarrett coming into Sunday’s FAI Cup final, where Wexford will be looking to defend their crown against newly-crowned league champions Peamount at the Aviva Stadium [KO 12.05pm, live on RTÉ Two].

There’ll be plenty of outstanding talent and others with experience of the international stage on display on both sides on the day, but it’s fair to say that Jarrett is most definitely the name on everyone’s lips at the moment. 

And should she perform like she did in Tallaght on 8 October, she’ll be worth the entrance fee alone.

“We actually get to see it week in, week out,” Murphy tells The42. “We get to see the hard work. Ri gets up and she’s doing PTs [personal training sessions] on a Tuesday morning, going to work and then she’s coming to training Tuesday night, like. That shit is not easy.

rianna-jarrett-with-louise-corrigan Facing Peamount in last year's cup final. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“Everything that has happened to her over the last few weeks, she deserves. She actually deserves more than that because the effort she has put in is just incredible. You get out what you put in, and that’s just genuinely the way it is.

“All we feel is proud of her. So, so proud of her. She’s incredible. An incredible girl and she’s still so young. What she’s been through, what she’s done and where she’s got herself to now…

Unbelievable. She’s like a different human being, a different person. Unreal, like. She’s done that, she’s worked for that.”

Some change in 12 months, when Youths were sweating on the availability of their leading goal-scorer ahead of the cup decider.

Jarrett was in a boot, slowly but surely recovering from a foot injury, with the call made on the Saturday night that she could play.

“We felt if we got 60 minutes out of Rianna, it was better than nothing,” manager Tom Elmes smirks 12 months on.The transformation since then has been nothing short of incredible, and Birmingham native Elmes agrees.

“She’s putting a lot of hard work in,” he echoes his skippers’ words in conversation with The42. “She’s doing a lot outside of training.

“There’s only so much we can do. She realised that. You can’t come to the club to get fit, you need to do that extra bit of work yourself. She has done that. She’s had some tough injuries, not just her knees but the likes of the foot last year. Constantly little put backs. That was probably a result of her maybe not being as fit as she should have been.

kylie-murphy-lifts-the-trophy Murphy lifts the trophy last year as Jarrett celebrates. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Now, her conditioning is a hell of a lot better. She knows she can even improve on what she’s at now. The player she’ll be when she does that, she’ll be nearly unplayable for anyone. She’s capable of bigger and better things.

A former Youths striker himself, he doesn’t want to dwell on that too much though.

“She’s in fantastic form now,” Elmes continues. “She’s going to drag a lot of attention for Peamount, there’ll be a lot of focus on Rianna and sometimes that can free up some of our other players to go out and play.

Sometimes that’s been Rianna’s role this year, she has finished up top scorer but there’s been times where she wouldn’t score as many as she would have liked. But her role in the team and in matches has been fantastic.

“It was important that we had other players prepared to step up and not rely on her. I think that’s really what’s started to happen towards the end of the year: players are stepping up now.”

She’s most definitely set the bar, though. 

And like Murphy, Elmes stresses that they were all so proud of Jarrett in that recent Player of the Match performance in the green jersey, but she’s doing that week in, week out for the Ferrycarrig Park side.

rianna-jarrett Facing Italy earlier this year. Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO Matteo Ciambelli / INPHO / INPHO

“That’s exactly what I’ve said to people today,” he added at the FAI Cup finals launch on Wednesday evening. “People talk about the Ukraine game but we see her doing it all the time, we see that work.

We always have a little bit of a laugh and a joke because when she wasn’t that fit, she always wanted the ball into feet. I’d be saying, ‘Look, if you don’t look for that ball through channels, if you don’t start making those runs, you become predictable.’ She didn’t want to hear it!

“It was so funny when we saw the two assists she had; getting down the side into the channels, two little pullbacks…”

“Look, she knew deep down that she needed to improve her game and add to it,” he concludes. “She’s really done that. She’s not just playing now in front of defenders, she’s getting in behind them, pulling them apart and she’s really added to her game.

“It’s good to see. It’s going to be difficult to keep hold of her as well at the same time. But we know what she’s capable of, she’s doing it week in, week out. It’s been a fantastic year for her, we’re delighted for her.”

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