“I was booked in for the match on Thursday,” says Áine O’Gorman with a laugh.
She is referring to what was, at the time, another RTÉ call-up for the then former Ireland international. Instead, she now finds herself back in the squad fold and firmly in contention for a playing, rather than a punditry, role for the visit of Greece on Thursday.
By the time RTÉ were inquiring about her availability, the 30-year-old had already agreed to come out of international retirement. “So I just texted back, ‘my circumstances have changed,” she says with another laugh.
In fact, the circumstances of her comeback were pretty straightforward: a direct answer to a direct question from Ireland head coach Vera Pauw.
“There are a few injuries in the squad, in the full-back positions as well, so Vera gave me a shout and it was an opportunity I wasn’t going to turn down,” says O’Gorman. “I’d probably regret it if I had.” In any case, the same thought had been brewing in her own mind for a while.
“After the new management came in, I probably started to get itchy feet. I was watching the girls play in Tallaght and it was something in the back of my mind, especially off the back of a good club season (with Peamount United). So when the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it with two hands. And here I am now and it kinda feels like I never left.”
She had originally decided to call a halt to her illustrious Irish career after achieving the milestone of 100 caps in 2018.
“It was something I’d been thinking about throughout that campaign,” she admits. “I probably wasn’t enjoying my international football in the way I should have. I’d been committed for 12 years, since I was 16, so at the time — and I still don’t regret it — I decided to take that step back and just let the younger players come through. It was a mixture of everything — the commitment levels and everything else I’d put on hold in my personal life as well. So I had a little break and now I’m ready: back with a bang.”
Although O’Gorman made her name as a winger or forward, she says she has no qualms about filling in at full-back if that’s what’s required.
“Well, my 100th cap was at full-back,” she notes. “It’s not predominantly my position - I probably play week in, week out, on the wing - but if it’s an attacking full-back role, I’ll be alright. I’m just happy to help the team in whatever capacity I can and bring my experience into the squad. It’s a good environment to be in now. Everyone’s happy and positive and focused. We’re clear in the way we’re going to play. It’s probably one of the best squads I’ve been involved in. The competition for places is really high.”
The ultimate goal, of course, is for this Irish team to make history by qualifying for the Euro 2021 Finals in England.
“That’s the breakthrough everybody is looking for,” she says.
“It’s the dream you have when you put on that Irish jersey, playing in a major tournament. We have the opportunity to live that dream and make that breakthrough for all of the young players coming through.”
And would an appearance in those finals be the perfect way to finally bring her own international career to a close?
“I think so,” she smiles. “That would be the pinnacle of any player’s career.”
Unfortunately, there was some bad news from the Irish camp yesterday, with Pauw revealing that Brighton’s Megan Connolly is out of Thursday’s game with a shoulder injury. Also out is Jessica Ziu (groin) while Connolly’s new Brighton teammate Rianna Jarrett — who scored twice in her debut for the side in an FA Cup win over Crystal Palace — is being monitored as she continues to manage her comeback from injury.
The FAI said yesterday that 5,000 tickets had already been “snapped up” for the qualifier against Greece, adding that they are hopeful that the attendance in Tallaght on Thursday could yet eclipse the record of 5,328 set in last October’s victory over Ukraine.