“I’ve seen a few good wee strikers and I’m a bit worried about my own position,” jokes Irish international Amber Barrett as she takes a brief break from another “flat out” day touring clubs in Cork in her ambassadorial role at the FAI’s Festival of Football.
“It’s really good to see the work that’s being done at the lower level clubs and the players coming through the ranks and one thing that’s stood out for me is that in every club there are girls playing, so it’s good to see the numbers growing,” she said.
The 22-year-old Donegal native is acutely conscious of the importance for young girls of having female footballers to look up to.
“The majority of girls who come to our games are young schoolgirls and we have a responsibility to them as role models for what these girls aspire to be,” she says.
A lot of the girls start off playing with boys, as I did myself, and I think it’s good that as well as male players there are female players who are there for young girls to see.
Barrett has certainly been setting the right example on the pitch in recent times, with a four-goal blitz in a 6-2 victory over UCD Waves, making it 10 goals in three games and 17 for the season for the striker, though defeat to Shelbourne at the weekend brought a winning run to an end for Peamount who lie third in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League. The pick of her goals this year came in April when, having been sprung from the bench, she delivered a thumping finish three minutes from time to spark joyous scenes in Tallaght, as Ireland beat Slovakia 2-1 in a World Cup qualifier.
With the Irish having already won away from home against the Slovaks and Northern Ireland and, famously, secured a memorable point in the Netherlands, Barrett’s strike kept hopes alive of the senior women’s team qualifying for the World Cup finals for the first time.
That was a highlight for me on a personal level, because at that moment it was a hugely important goal for us, but it’s really important to me that I don’t rest on my laurels in that respect. I have very high aspirations that I can go and do that more for Ireland. That’s the ambition and that’s the dream.
Unfortunately, just a few days after that moment to remember, European champions Holland reasserted their authority to win 2-0 in Tallaght, before the Irish dream of qualification for France next year ended with back-to-back defeats in June against the group’s other heavy hitters, Norway.
With a final home game against the North to come at the end of this month, Barrett is convinced Ireland are making real progress under manager Colin Bell.
“We can take a lot from this World Cup campaign,” she says. “We will definitely take positives from it and Colin will take positives from it. As a group, we want to finish on 13 points by winning our last game and hopefully give the fans a good send-off.”
The goal of reaching the big stage for the first time ever will then shift to Euro 2021, with Barrett fully aware of the potentially transformative effect qualification would have on the women’s game.
It’s something we’ve never done, but I firmly believe that with Colin and with the squad we have, that we will be capable of doing it,” she says. “We’ll be all guns blazing for the Euros.
The FAI Festival of Football in Cork continues today in Castleview, Rockmount, Leeds, Mayfield United, Cobh Ramblers and Springfield Ramblers.
Yesterday, the FAI confirmed Carrigaline United were awarded €100,000 towards the redevelopment of a second, full-sized, all-weather pitch at the facility. Crosshaven AFC were awarded €30,000 to help build an