Sunday 25 August 2019

O'Gorman makes Waves on home turf

Áine O'Gorman.
Áine O'Gorman.

Marie Crowe

When US footballer Hope Solo was in Dublin last month she posted a picture of herself with Republic of Ireland player Áine O'Gorman.

Along with the image, Solo wrote: "The fight for women's rights is global. Players like Ireland's Áine O'Gorman give us power in numbers."

Since finishing international duty with the US, Solo has been campaigning for equality for women in football and Ireland's quest earlier this year caught her attention. Back in February, O'Gorman was one of the members of the Irish women's football team who demanded better conditions for their team and, ultimately, for all the players who will pass through the set-up in the future.

Along with her team-mates O'Gorman changed the landscape for women's sport in Ireland, they raised standards and made other teams realise that the fight for respect is one worth having.

"There's a movement globally surrounding women's sport," explains O'Gorman.

"Teams are standing up for themselves and that will hopefully lead to improvements on lots of levels. As these improvements are made, I think interest will increase in women's sport, participation and standards will improve too."

Just like most girls on the Ireland squad, O'Gorman's football journey started with a boys' team and she played with Enniskerry until she was 14. Playing for a girls' team was the next step. And so a trip to Dublin City centre from Bray so she could play with Stella Maris was the next logical step.

They were a great team, she won several underage All-Ireland titles and O'Gorman progressed to an emerging talent set-up in the AUL before making her way onto underage international teams and now she is a senior star. When she finished school, O'Gorman was offered US scholarships but opted to go to college in Carlow.

However, when the women's Super League was set up in England a contract offer came in from Doncaster Belles.

"It was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," she says. "I was 21 and it was great to be playing at that level against the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea."

Although it sounds like a glamorous life, being a female professional footballer in the early days of the league was far from that. O'Gorman's accommodation for her two-year stint with Doncaster was in a hotel room.

"There was a few of us there so that was nice and the manager and the chairman were very good to us. They often invited us over for dinner. Most of the girls were living where they were in college or else at home so it was hard at times."

After two years, O'Gorman decided to look at what life would be like after football finished. She opted to return home to develop her career in the world of fitness. She's now playing for UCD Waves and hopes some day the Irish league will be semi-professional. "A better league would mean a better international team because over half the players are home-based but Colin Bell now does home-based training sessions and that is a big help."

In September, while playing against Northern Ireland, O'Gorman injured her knee and will miss lining out for UCD Waves in today's Cup final against Cork at Aviva Stadium. It's a blow but she will step into a different role working as an analyst for RTÉ's live coverage.

"Cork are improving game by game and season by season when they have all there players on the pitch they are a massive threat. If we can keep Clare Shine and Saoirse Noonan quiet up front and stay organised and focus then it should be UCD's day."

UCD Waves v Cork City

RTé 2, 12.0

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