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Connolly's winding career path a lesson in trust and faith - both on and off the field

 

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‘Everything happens for a reason’: Megan Connolly displays her tattoo.

‘Everything happens for a reason’: Megan Connolly displays her tattoo.

‘Everything happens for a reason’: Megan Connolly displays her tattoo.

At some point in Duisburg this Saturday evening, Megan Connolly will wordlessly raise her right arm and display it to her teammates. They will know the sign even if they cannot read it.

For whether Connolly may flourish her limb in anger or despair, annoyance or delight, her colleagues will know exactly the message being relayed and from where it is sourced.

"Everything happens for a reason."

The inked idiom has sustained Connolly in the contented days that followed troubled times. Trust. Faith. Belief. She knows too that sometimes it pays to remember all this on the field of battle.

Ireland are expected to lose to multiple champions Germany in their Euro 2022 qualifier this weekend but then again Ireland were expected to lose to an equally formidable Dutch side three years ago.

But they didn't and, although she didn't feature that day in Nijmegen, the lessons of that 0-0 draw are as salutary now as they were then.

"We're massive underdogs again," says the 23-year-old Corkonian, fresh from Saturday's 0-0 draw for Brighton against Manchester City, a remarkable result which arguably mirrored her country's ambitions this weekend.

"Look at their quality and outstanding players. Vera Pauw and our staff will design a game-plan and it's about having the trust in it, knowing we're all on the same page.

"That happened against Holland. Belief, trust and a game-plan. And not giving up. If something isn't going your way ten minutes in, keep going. That was a big result and it shows anything is possible. Few expected that result but the team believed."

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Megan Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile

Megan Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile

Megan Connolly. Photo: Sportsfile

 

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Belief isn't always so easy to sustain, whether being bombarded by the one of the best teams in world football or enduring the lashes of life's misfortune.

Connolly would discover this herself as fortune's path tripped her up five summers ago.

In a week of CAO scrutiny, when middle-class angst at being denied college places their wealth expected contrasts with working-class anguish at the cost of accessing college places, her tale is a salutary life lesson.

Like many 18-year-olds, dilemmas threatened to swamp her. Denied a soccer scholarship in Ireland, she flirted with opting for a career without education at an English club and flitted between that option and going to college here and playing domestically.

As she struggled to commit to any course of action, the death of her grandmother rocked a world that had seemed to be freighted with weighty concerns but were now placed, starkly, in context. And so as one life sadly came to an end, she stopped worrying about how her own was going to start.

Except suddenly it did.

Megan Campbell had, unbeknownst to her Irish team-mate, already suggested to her Florida State University coach, Mark Krikorian, that there was another girl from the emerald isle worth checking out.

A year later, she was being feted as one of the brightest college prospects in the entire continent, earning First Team All-American status, one of the highest honours in the sport and one chosen by a panel of coaches.

She was the first freshman player from the college to earn the award and only the 12th ever after scoring seven goals in the 22-game season.

Ironically, she would continue her Irish underage progress by making her full debut against the United States in the spring of 2016, another life-changing moment.

It wasn't always easy; the last two years in college she scarcely played. She never stopped learning, though, about her game and her self.

"Being in America shaped who I am."

And so she decided to tattoo the words to sum up the extraordinary life force, one summoned from where she did not know. She has more but this one seems to explain her better.

"More so life than football. It's a belief I have with everything really. Obviously it's hard to put it into results, you lose 1-0, the first thing I think about isn't, 'Everything happens for a reason'.

"But it's more with life, how I kind of view things in the good and the bad really. There is light at the end of the tunnel."

And so, when the Irish team are stuck in a rut against the Germans, perhaps, desperately scrambling for an escape hatch, Connolly knows that she can offer some sense of momentary salvation. All she has to do is raise her right arm.


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