For all the benefits German efficiency brings to Claire O’Riordan’s everyday life abroad, its unintended consequences can be a source of frustration.
Protocols around the Bundesliga’s return to play from the coronavirus present the latest example.
O’Riordan’s MSV Duisburg restarted their Bundesliga campaign on Saturday with a vital 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen, alleviating their relegation fears with six games remaining.
Only they’d be much better equipped to swat away another struggler, FC Koln, in Thursday evening’s clash were it not for a peculiar element of the lockdown lifting procedures.
“One of my fellow defenders from Saturday’s game, Isabel Hochstein, works as a police officer,” explains Limerick native O’Riordan.
“We’ll now be missing her for the next few matches. Unless she can get three days off between matches to be tested twice, the German federation won’t allow her to play. She’s a huge loss for us at this stage of the season.
"Sometimes, they create crazy rules in Germany. Even the local girls cannot understand where they come up with them.”
The anomaly doesn’t affect the powerhouses of the Bundesliga, highlighting the two-tier system Ireland's three players inhabit.
Claire O’Riordan going through her stretching routine during training at Tallaght Stadium ahead of an Irish international game. Photo: Sportsfile
Like Duisburg, Amber Barrett’s Koln and Diane Caldwell’s SC Sand have a combination of full-time and part-time players. All three teams reside towards the bottom of the table.
Up at the top, the €5m annual backing of owners Volkswagen keeps Wolfsburg ahead of the rest, evidenced by them reaching four of the last seven Champions League finals.
Bayern Munich are catching up, backboned by an increased budget, and O’Riordan is particularly proud that her side held the giants to a 2-2 draw just before Covid-19 suspended the season in March.
Duisburg had a spell of past dominance. A decade ago, as Champions League holders, they claimed a fifth domestic title in six years.
Within two years, however, financial collapse led to the separate men’s club taking ownership to avoid bankruptcy.
MSV Duisburg are no Bayern Munich, their own demise into the lower leagues generating a new economic reality for the sister women’s set-up. A crash-and-burn sequel is off the agenda.
O’Riordan, who will continue her German odyssey into 2021, knew the score when signing from Wexford Youths two years ago. Back home in Newcastle West for two months during the lull, she admits the GPS trackers used by the club to monitor their fitness “weren’t top of the range”.
Strangely, crisis has brought about unexpected gains. The strict protocols that facilitated Germany becoming the first major country across Europe to resume fixtures means the women have been afforded access to the men’s facilities. Thursday’s game will be contested at the 31,000-capacity MSV Arena.
“It’s a relief that we’ll train and play our remaining matches there because the stadium and pitch used for the women’s games is awful,” explains the Ireland international.
“There’s not a chance we’d have been able to play those passages of passes we showed at Leverkusen last Saturday on our home pitch.”
Barrett’s red card last Friday deprives Thursday’s contest of an Irish duel.
The 25-year-old will continue her German odyssey into 2021 regardless of whether they survive the drop, having agreed a two-year extension.
“I’m raging Amber is suspended I was looking forward to facing her for the first time,” O’Riordan says of her compatriot. “We’ve got SC Sand on Sunday, so I just come across Diane there.”
That she has got back into competitive action while her Ireland squad colleagues in England have seen their season scrapped does bolster O’Riordan’s prospects of regaining her spot in the Ireland side.
The defender ended the last campaign as a mainstay under Colin Bell, who recommended her to Duisburg, yet his successor Vera Pauw is still experimenting with her defence.
Next up for Ireland is a top-of-the-table clash against her adopted country on September 19. The group leaders require just a point from the two meetings with Germany, and visit to Ukraine, for a play-off into the deferred 2022 Euros to be guaranteed.
“Our goalkeeper has been part of the Germany squad and the feeling within their camp is they’ll walk all over us,” notes O’Riordan.
“It’s up to us to knock them down. Hopefully, by the time they come to Tallaght for the last game in December, our fans will be allowed in to get behind us.”
Women’s Bundesliga: MSV Duisburg v FC Köln, Live Thursday June 3, DFB website, 4.0