Ireland women’s team striker Ruesha Littlejohn recalls her childhood trips to Killarney with fondness and now wants to put the country’s female side on the European football map.
The Liverpool striker is set to feature tonight against her native Scotland in a vital UEFA qualifier at Turner’s Cross (kick-off 7.30pm). This is despite her drawing controversy in the English Super League for incurring a six-match ban after being found guilty of improper conduct.
The offence took place on her Twitter account, with the English FA’s ruling including a charge of bringing "the game into disrepute and including a reference to sexual orientation".
Tonight’s tie, which Ireland must win to bridge a four-point gap on the second-placed Scots, is one the Glaswegian feels can be the perfect platform to showcase her talents to the Irish public.
Her substitute appearance in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat against Wales was her second competitive outing since defecting from Scotland last year and she’s eager to be involved again in Cork.
"Due to my lack of club games because of suspension, I can’t really complain about not starting for Ireland, but this game against Scotland is extra special for me," says the 21-year-old.
"I know a lot of the Scottish players and they’ve some quality in the side but we’re just as good and a win will lift our spirits."
Littlejohn, who bagged a dozen goals in 15 appearances for the Scots’ youth side, doesn’t regret her decision to change allegiances despite Scotland being favourites to clinch runners-up in Group 4 over the Irish and, with it, a play-off route into next year’s European Championships in Sweden.
She said: "Even though I’d played at U19s European Championships for Scotland in 2008, they didn’t pick me for senior squads. I qualified for Ireland through my grandmother so it was an easy choice. I used to come over to visit her on all my holidays from school — Christmas, Easter and summer — and we’d go to different places, like Killarney, which I loved.
"I wouldn’t be coming to Ireland if I wasn’t so close to be my grandmother and spent so a lot of time in the country when I was younger."
With Arsenal midfielder Niamh Fahey back from suspension, Ireland should be at full strength.
"We must win tonight to have any chance of qualifying," said Ireland manager Sue Ronan. "Scotland beat Israel 8-0 on Saturday so are in form, but our girls will be up for this one."
IRELAND (probable): E. Byrne (Arsenal); S. Perry (Chelsea), L. Quinn (Peamount United), Y. Tracy (Arsenal), D. Caldwell (Avaldsnes); N. Fahey (Arsenal) C. Grant (Arsenal), R. Littlejohn (Liverpool); A. O’Gorman (Doncaster Belles), D. O’Sullivan (Cork), S. Roche (Peamount United).