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'Playing two sports and just being so natural and so clinical about it is amazing' - Pauw on Noonan

The Ireland boss discusses Cork dual star Saoirse Noonan, 16-year-old Wexford Youths sensation Ellen Molloy and the absence of Tyler Toland.

A FIRST SENIOR international call-up nicely put the icing on a whirlwind few days for Cork dual star Saoirse Noonan.

barretstown-womens-national-league-player-of-the-month-september Saoirse Noonan was recently named Women's National League Player of the Month for September. Source: Piaras Ó Mídheach/SPORTSFILE

On Saturday, the 21-year-old accounted for 1-2 as the Cork ladies footballers opened their All-Ireland senior championship campaign with a win over Kerry, her first-half goal the difference in Tralee.

On Sunday, Noonan scored two goals to steer Cork City into the FAI Cup final for the first time since their 2017 win, and just the second time in the club’s history.

And yesterday’s news of her inclusion in Vera Pauw’s extended Ireland squad ahead of their final Euro 2022 qualifier against Germany came as another milestone. 

It came as little surprise to many who have been watching Noonan over the past few years in the Women’s National League [WNL], her recent stellar form contributing greatly to Cork’s successful run. 

“She has been on my radar for a long time,” Pauw told the media yesterday. “It’s not that she had a good weekend and was then selected. She was already on the fringes and we have been discussing and following her for a while.

“I didn’t know how she performed at the weekend [when selecting the squad] because she was already on the list because of her other performances. Of course, it’s great when you put her on the list and then you see how well she performs.

Playing two sports and just being so natural and so clinical about it is amazing.

Having enjoyed a glittering underage career with Ireland, Noonan now has the chance to bring her game to the next level. On the Gaelic football front, she’s been a key player for the Rebels since making her senior debut in July 2018, overcoming a knee injury along the way.

While she has long stressed her intentions to continue playing both sports — and echoed those words to The42 on Monday — the time could be coming where she’ll have to focus on one, like Donegal’s Amber Barrett did.

Even in this instance, the All-Ireland semi-finals are set for the weekend of 28/29 November (should Cork beat Cavan this weekend, they’ll be there) while camp for Pauw’s trimmed down squad begins on Sunday, 22 November.

“Let’s see how she develops first,” Pauw says. “Young players have their heart in sports.

When you step up and cannot cope anymore with combining, that’s when to choose. I will be the last one to say that she has to stop playing.

“If she gets injuries, the pressure gets too high or she doesn’t have recovery time, that is the only moment to discuss what she wants from sport and I will discuss with her how she sees her future and how she wants to decide that future.

“My way of coaching is that I’m a helper to develop players and to get a performance from the team on the pitch. It’s not about me. There’s no rules. Every individual is different and that is the way I approach the team.”

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The Dutch boss went on to share a few thoughts on 16-year-old sensation Ellen Molloy, who made her senior debut off the bench against Ukraine having impressed with Wexford Youths.

ellen-molloy Ellen Molloy came of the bench in Kiev. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

“We need to be careful because Ellen is very young. She’s a youth player, the pressures are high on her at the moment, but until now she has performed very, very positively. It is amazing how she’s dealing with the fact that people are now watching her.

“She’s young and it’s our task as staff to give her the space to develop. If that space turns into a situation where she can start, then she will start. But the pressures are the most important thing for her to handle.

She needs to stay fit, and if she stays fit and does things smartly, then she will grow to a level that Ireland will benefit from for years to come.”

And Pauw also addressed the long-term absence of teenage midfielder Tyler Toland. The Donegal star hasn’t been in the squad since the away trip to Greece last November, having excelled earlier in the campaign against Montenegro.

Toland is a player Pauw has discussed plenty in the past — “there is something not going right for Tyler, she is not the player that she normally is,” she said last October, before suggesting that a lack of game time was a reason for her absence in February.

The Glasgow City player is in excellent form at the minute following her loan move from Manchester City and recently shared her thoughts on her international exile in an interview with The Irish Times. But Pauw says she is waiting on a call from her.

“Tyler is playing at Glasgow and I am in full contact with her coach,” the Irish manager concluded. “The thing she said in the papers, that it’s up to me to call her, is not true.

“I am waiting for a call from her to tell me that she wants to be selected again. I want to leave it at that because I don’t want to create any issues. But it’s not that she is not on the list because of not playing, because there are more players sitting on the bench. I am waiting for a call from her.”

- with reporting from Paul Dollery.

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Emma Duffy

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