Ireland's Niamh Farrelly salutes the boom in women's football as she targets international success
Recently-crowned FAI U-19 player of the year Niamh Farrelly believes the increased female participation levels can drive the senior Ireland team to success.
Launching the Aviva Soccer Sisters Easter festival at the Aviva Stadium today, which will see 150 camps open for free to 6,000 girls from April 15-26, the Peamount United midfielder hailed the growth of the game.
Manager Colin Bell used his first qualification campaign for the World Cup to integrate several teenage players into his side. Farrelly is one the latest graduates, having been part of the squad for the friendly matches so far this year.
Ireland begin their bid to reach the Euro 2021 finals by hosting Montenegro in Cork on September 3. They also have in their group Ukraine, Greece and serial champions Germany.
"It is great that there's more girls involved in football nowadays," said the 19-year-old. "As a child, I was involved in the summer camp at Esker Celtic but as the only girl. Now we have girl-only camps this Easter and there's huge interest.
"Hopefully that will improve the game overall which will benefit the senior team.
"My goal at the start of the year was to get into the squad and now I want to keep my place. Then, I'd look to push on for a starting spot by the time the campaign begins.
"Ireland have never reached a major senior tournament and I know how many that would mean to women's football in Ireland.
"We'll have to knock out a big gun out to qualify for the Euros but we're capable of doing it."
The camps, blitzes and coaching workshops will run on various dates and locations throughout Ireland during the Easter school break.
All participating clubs will be in with a chance to win a place at the Aviva Soccer Sisters Dream Camp, which will take place at Aviva Stadium on May 29, where players will get the opportunity to play on the same field as their national heroes.
Parents and coaches will be invited to nominate their clubs for a dream day out in the stadium. Details will be announced via Aviva's social channels in the coming weeks.
To find out more about Aviva Soccer Sisters and how to sign up for one of the Easter Football Festivals, log on to www.soccersisters.ie