Tuesday 20 August 2019

French lessons open doors for Fahley

Bordeaux move has put rejuvenated midfielder on a new path

Niamh Fahey is enjoying the continental life while also maintaining an eye on the future ahead of Ireland’s Women’s World Cup qualifier against European heavyweights the Netherlands Photo: Sportsfile
Niamh Fahey is enjoying the continental life while also maintaining an eye on the future ahead of Ireland’s Women’s World Cup qualifier against European heavyweights the Netherlands Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

As she whiles away some of her afternoons in various Bordeaux cafés watching the world go by, Ireland women's midfielder Niamh Fahey invariably thinks of Hugh Grant's routine in the movie 'About A Boy'.

"He gets through the day by putting the hours into units," explains the Galway girl, now 30 and a decade with the senior international squad.

"It's been many years since I had this amount of free time in my career but it's easy to kill a few hours in Bordeaux and the chance is there to have a think about the future."

Fahey is one of only three players at the French top-flight club devoting her time solely to the game, meaning most of the training sessions are held in the evening with the part-timers.

Still, unlike the last time Fahey's work-life balance seemed out of kilter, she won't be seeking a day job to consume the hours.

On that occasion, after spending 2015 in a full-time environment with Chelsea, the boredom caused her to seek refuge in the workplace. It was a case of the biopharmaceutical research scientist being careful of what she wished for.


"I asked for some part-time work from my previous employer but it didn't work out," she admitted.

"There was no consistency to trying to combine both jobs and I don't think they were too impressed. If I was to go back for a third time, they said it would have to be without any football commitments."

That's unlikely to occur any time soon as Fahey has settled into continental life.

She'd known nothing but success during her time in England, winning medals galore for Arsenal and then Chelsea, and her changed status within the hierarchy of the French league isn't a problem.

Although French teams have contested all but one of the last nine Champions League finals, with Lyon currently holders for a second successive year, Bordeaux operate amongst the chasing pack behind the top three.

There's no sign of Paris-Saint Germain, Montpellier or Lyon having their dominance threatened on or off the pitch.

"Things hadn't gone to plan at Chelsea after I'd come back from injury and I wasn't happy just being a squad player," explained Fahey. "Moving to France wasn't something I'd thought about but I didn't fancy staying in England and this opportunity to work in a nice part of the world came up in July.

"Using my Leaving Cert French to get by was never going to be enough. There's a player on the team each from Brazil and New Zealand so the three of us take language lessons during the daytime.

"The standard of football in the league is very high, with most of the teams playing attacking and free-flowing football.

"As a defensive midfielder, that makes it difficult for me but I've enjoyed playing against some of the best teams in Europe, like PSG and Lyon."

Whatever about expanding her trophy haul, Fahey will utilise her time in France to attain her coaching qualifications. As retired captain Emma Byrne said last week, the prospects of those behind the women's team's uprising against the FAI in April being employed by the association are remote, leading the stalwarts to broaden their scope for future employment opportunities.

"At my age, I've got to be thinking what to do next and coaching is an area I'm certainly interested in," she confessed.

"I'm an outdoors type of person and the idea of working within the four walls of an office is not conducive to that. There's no guaranteed coaching jobs in Ireland unless you work for the FAI, so I won't pigeon-hole myself into one area and will probably have to stay abroad."

That crusade for equality not only brought the team to national prominence but also global acclaim. Fahey believes the group were fully vindicated in taking the firm stance they did at a momentous press conference at Liberty Hall.

"I wouldn't be comparing us to the Weinstein-effect but our highlighting of issues started a ripple in women's sport," she insisted.

"It needed us to open the can of worms. It wasn't long before other national teams started demanding more."

The players have also asked more of themselves and two wins from their opening pair of World Cup qualifiers sets them up nicely for tomorrow's ultimate test against Holland.

"They're the European champions in front of a full house but we've got belief. Maybe in previous campaigns, we were coasting along and had excuses but everything is in place now. We'll be ready for the Dutch," said Fahey.

Irish Independent

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