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American soccer star Heather O'Reilly living the dream with Shelbourne in Portmarnock

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New Portmarnock resident Heather O'Reilly will line out for Shelbourne in the Champions League this week. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

New Portmarnock resident Heather O'Reilly will line out for Shelbourne in the Champions League this week. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

New Portmarnock resident Heather O'Reilly will line out for Shelbourne in the Champions League this week. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

fingalindependent

WITH 82 minutes played at Tolka Park last Saturday there was a break in play and an announcement comes across the Tannoy: “We want to wish our Shelbourne squad the best of luck as they travel to Slovenia on Tuesday for their Champions League game.”

In the dugout the first player to her feet in response to the message was Shels’ marquee signing and new Portmarnock resident Heather O’Reilly (pictured below), with a double fist pump and a mix of excitement and determination etched on her face.

The USA international has played 231 times for her country and is the 10th most capped player of all time, she has won three Olympic gold medals and the FIFA Women’s World Cup with her country.

O’Reilly has only been at the club for just over two weeks and her impact is clear to see, with several star-spangled banners adorning the club.

Members of the US Embassy were also in attendance at Saturday’s home fixture against Treaty, a send-off game for the club who - all according to plan - should now have arrived in Slovenia for Thursday’s European tie.

Impressively, she spent 20 minutes on the pitch after Saturday’s match, signing autographs and taking pictures with a lot of very exhilarated kids.

Several Portmarnock AFC shirts could be seen at the game and after the match she chatted about the area, extolling the quality of Indian food with some delighted locals.

Having relocated to Portmarnock with her husband and two young kids, O’Reilly told the Fingal Independent that she is loving life here.

“It’s a beautiful area,” she said with a huge grin. “Everyone has been really friendly and thanking me for bringing the weather with me, because apparently it’s not always this warm,” she joked.

She says of Fingal that she didn’t really know what to expect. Her view of Dublin was that of a more urban area and she didn’t really envisage something like Portmarnock.

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The locality was recommended to her by Shelbourne and O’Reilly and her family have wasted no time in getting to know their surroundings better.

“The first few days of settling in were a bit touch and go,” she admitted. “With two small kids and the change in time difference it wasn’t easy, but we’re loving it now.

“We’ve visited Malahide and we go to Portmarnock beach a lot, and we did a cliff walk in Howth that was fantastic.

“Everyone has been really welcoming and very friendly, not like when I lived in north London,” she laughed.

The area got her husband’s seal of approval when he was told of the golf courses.

“My husband loves his golf, so he was delighted when he was told about the course in Portmarnock.

“But for a footballer, I know Robbie Keane lives in Malahide and it’s just nice to be on the outskirts of town where it’s a bit more quiet.”

On Saturday, O’Reilly played 45 minutes in the 4-0 win against Treaty, she looked sharp and was unlucky on several occasions not to score.

Her excitement for Thursday’s fixture away to Pomurje Beltinci is what it’s all about for O’Reilly.

“This isn’t an everyday thing, this is THE main reason I came out of retirement. It’s always been this kind of thing that has been off my resume, so now I want to change that and when this opportunity came up I jumped at it.”

Looking at Shelbourne’s opponents, this is very much a journey into the unknown.

“We don’t know what to expect from the trip or the Slovenian side, but we’re in a good spot as a team,” she said.

“We’re feeling confident and we’re happy and we’re together, so we’ll go and try and do some damage over there.”

While she would have wished for more than 45 minutes, O’Reilly knows that at her career stage she needs to mind herself a bit more, but she is embracing her opportunity and it would be no surprise if she bagged her first goal for the club on Thursday.


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