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Olivia O'Toole

Olivia O'Toole

Olivia O'Toole

Olivia O'Toole (Former Irish soccer player)

For Olivia O'Toole, her international debut against Spain in 1991 was the best moment of her career. Playing in front of a crowd of 7,000 fans and scoring the winner was a dream come true for the then 20-year-old.

Born and raised in Sheriff Street in Dublin, her dad introduced her to the game early in life and it quickly became her obsession.

At six, she started playing with Sheriff YC boys team and two years later moved to Shelbourne boys where she stayed for six years.

However, a rule was introduced when O'Toole was 14 prohibiting girls from playing against boys and that ended the left-footed winger's time with Shels.

A couple of years later, she joined Drumcondra FC women's team and soon after was called into the Irish squad. She made her debut in that game against Spain in 1991 and played until 2009, earning 130 caps along the way, the most senior international appearances by any Irish player, male or female.

"Football is my life; I eat sleep and breathe it," says O'Toole. "I just loved pulling on the green jersey. Even when I hear the national anthem now when the lads are playing, I still get goose bumps."

In her club career, O'Toole won eight FAI Women's Cup medals and nine League championships playing for Blacklion, Castle Rovers, Shamrock Rovers and Raheny United. Until recently, O'Toole held the record for most international goals for Ireland on her own but Robbie Keane's goal against the Faroe Islands back in October brought him to 54, equalling her tally. During her international career she picked up several awards including three International Player of the Year awards and a special merit award at the FAI International Football Awards.

O'Toole is 42 now and still playing football. She's presently with St Catherine's and for now has no intention of retiring. She works for Dublin City Council as a recreation worker and last summer was honoured to carry the Olympic torch in Dublin.

Many of her former team-mates will line out for Arsenal today in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Wolfsburg. They are 2-0 down going into the tie away from home but O'Toole feels that if they get an early goal they could do it.

"I know a few of the girls like Emma Byrne, Ciara Grant and Yvonne Tracey, they are super players and know how to win."

Irish Independent