Sportstalk reflective piece. Deniese talks with Shelbourne star and former Cork footballer Saoirse Noonan.

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By Steven Kelly.

Saoirse is known for being a former Cork GAA ladies footballer, but now plys her trade in soccer. She signed for Shelbourne and has a love for Business outside of sport. She has recently launched her own clothing brand. She feels it is good to have something to fall back on: “I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. I wanted to have something outside of sport to fall back on. I said that if it didn’t work out, it would be a learning curve. I got involved after earning a bit of extra cash from coaching. I said if it fell flat I can say I tried it. The brand is called freedom, which is what my name means. People are looking for freedom particularly nowadays. We launched and sold out in the first week. I have great support from my family and girlfriend. I have that support to help me focus on my football and career outside of it.”

Saoirse is a proud Cork girl and hasn’t forgotten her roots. She said: “I will always be a Cork girl; the girls in Shelbourne always slag me about not having a Dublin accent. I suppose it would have been easier to stay in Cork, but I am glad I didn’t just put all my eggs in one basket. I pushed myself and moved to Dublin. Lots of things are happening for me at the moment and I suppose I am glad that I am not too far away from home, if and when I want to visit my family. Shelbourne just seemed like the right move for me in that I can still branch out, but be still relatively close to home. I am definitely a home girl. I suppose I would always have the notion not to have any regrets and try new things. Then at least you can say you tried. You have to go away from your comfort zone. There is a fall back with Cork, if it doesn’t work out. It is all about learning. You will make mistakes along the way. I won’t put Gaelic off forever. I will 100 percent put on the Cork jersey again one day. I am giving my time to soccer, but I do hope they go on and win the All- Ireland.”

Saoirse believes anything is possible if you work hard: “You see many girls playing other sports. I did it with Cork and played international football for the Republic of Ireland, in the same year. Unfortunately last year I was beaten in two finals with Cork City and the Cork Ladies footballers. Losing one final was hard, but both, you kind of go into yourself, if anything. Getting to play in two finals was great; I will still take those memories forever. I didn’t dwell on it too much. Christmas came and went. That was nice. It was fairly hectic and busy. But a good time.” Noonan knows first hand what it is like to train with players she has looked up to on biggest stage of all with Ireland. She said: “Yes getting to train and play with the likes of Grace Maloney, Ellen Molloy and Katie McCabe was an amazing experience and if anything proved that hard work definitely beats talent. You have to believe things will work out. Hopefully I can get the opportunity to put on that green jersey at some stage. At the minute I am totally focused on working hard with Shelbourne. There is a league there to be won, so I am going to give it my all, now that I am focusing totally on soccer. We were unlucky to lose to Peamount recently. The hard work begins now, so we have to keep going. And hopefully I will get that cap.”

Saoirse Noonan has been recognised by many to have a huge future ahead of herself. Her Nemo Rangers clubman James Masters rates her highly. She was delighted to hear that: “Ah, that is nice to hear of course. He is a hero of mine. I would have looked up to him. Any game I would have gone to I would have looked at him. I would observe his play and the scores and positions he was taking. Having him involved with Cork in my first year was great, but I gotta keep going and progressing. Underage for me was hugely successful between underage football with Cork and Ireland and achieving personal awards in between my Leaving Cert. I do look back on how far I have come, but I know I have a long way to go yet.”

Noonan feels that the WNL has come a long way in terms of its growth and coverage: “Yes for so long the league wasn’t run very well. You see that sponsors are getting involved with the league which is very important. You see coverage on Spin and Red fm, people are talking about the ladies game. Not just in the Women’s football league, but it’s being talked about alongside the men’s which gives the league more of a status. I got to play In Turner’s Cross and that wouldn’t have happened even a few years back. I think the conversation around women’s sport is changing and it can only get better heading into the future.” Saoirse believes her exposure to games as a youngster paved the way for her progress and determination to be involved in sport: ,“Yes definitely I would have gone to any games in Cork, between Pairc Uí Chaoimh and Turner’s Cross. I used to get the bus into games on Friday evenings. We only live down the road from there so I was immersed in it. I suppose one of my personal highlights so far would have been playing in the 2017 FAI Cup final at the Aviva. We got to play before the men’s game and obviously that gave us more exposure which was important. We showed what we were capable of. We got a taste of what the men have. The homecoming was amazing. To be a part of that day was hard to put into words. It is great to see the women playing in Turner’s Cross.”

Noonan believes that women deserve to play in the biggest stadiums: “Yes we deserve the big day out in the Aviva. It is our national stadium. I do think that GAA and soccer go hand in hand. I would say that soccer is more physical and GAA is more tactical. I suppose that is how I would go about playing them. A lot of the skills can be crossed over. It is still a game and about winning at the end of the day, so I suppose they set you up for staying in that same mindset. Regardless of one being in your hands and the other on the floor, you still do your best to go out and give a good performance.” Noonan has played other sports as a kid. “Yes I played camogie and basketball. Basketball would have been the first sport I stopped playing. I think it benefited me in terms of the fast pace, defending, catching the ball and tactics. Camogie was also very good to play. I played up till I was in Third year of secondary school. It was a very physical sport and I guess that would have helped me along the way too. I played with St Finbarr’s. I think kids should be involved in multiple sports. It is good to have a choice. I still speak to girls from that Camogie team. Sport is huge for forming our friendships.”

Noonan likes to inspire the future generations. She said: “It is heartwarming to inspire the next generation. I find it mad that a young girl from another county wants to be like me and I suppose when you’re having a bad day, that is something to keep with you in the back of your mind. It gives you the determination to work hard and keep improving as a player and as a person. You want to show them what they can do if they work hard, just like you have. My family have shown me the way and are huge supporters of mine. They have been there from day one, bringing us to games and being our number one supporters. My dad used to bring me to Dublin to U14 Ireland training. And you see the sacrifices they have made looking back. I could have so easily hopped on a train but my dad wanted to be there for me. My grandparents are also hugely supportive. I have a brother and sister and they love sport too. It is just in us I suppose. Despite being a home bird, I have aspirations to go to Australia to try playing out there. The season is so short and it’s not something I want to close the door on. You never know in the future, when the time is right. I have stayed in touch with one or two clubs over there, so it could definitely be in the pipeline going forward. You have to just try new things and go for it. If you want something bad enough to do it. The world is your oyster. I have a bucket list made and I am going to do everything in my power to achieve the list. Everyday I wake up I look forward to the day ahead.”

Saoirse Noonan has achieved lots at the young age of 21 and is someone the business and sporting world should look out for for many years ahead.