Doing her native Limerick and Ireland proud was all Marie Curtin aspired to do as a footballer.
After enduring substandard treatment for club and country, she’s relieved to finally and properly get that chance in the twilight of her career.
On Saturday week, the Limerick lady will captain new club Treaty United against national champions Peamount United in the delayed season-opener.
The demise of Pat O’Sullivan’s Limerick FC earlier this year means the only side continuing the 84-year top-level football tradition in the city and country are female.
Curtin and her team had, for the past two years, been part of the men’s club structure but financial issues triggered the breakaway. Initially, legal threats from O’Sullivan over copyright prevented the new entity being called Limerick United, convincing chairman Conn Murray to draw on the county’s roots.
For Curtin, the turnaround is far more than a cosmetic name change.
Having quit a promising international career at just 28 due to off-field issues which would later create international headlines, the midfielder could spot the fault lines closer to home.
“The last two years were tough on everyone,” she said of the first couple of seasons attached to Limerick FC.
“For most of the away matches, we had to use our own cars to travel because there was no team bus. Then, we got moved out of our training ground.
“Our management took a lot of hardship by not wanting to burden us players but we could all see the cracks on show.”
Despite the conditions, the side completed respectable campaigns, gradually blending graduates from their successful U17 team. Coupled with the experience of Curtin and former Cork City stalwart Maggie Duncliffe, the squad wearing the red, rather than blue, should be equipped to progress this year.
“Conn is leading a new board with great plans for the future,” explained Curtin, who turns 35 next week.
“Their first job was to fight hard for keeping a national league team, not just for Limerick but the mid-west region.
“On the pitch, even though results weren’t great last year, opposition teams always respected us for trying to play good football. The challenge now is to stop the stronger teams from bossing us around in matches. Realistically, our target for the season is to push towards mid-table.”
Curtin will gladly play her part in spearheading Treaty’s first season, adamant she’ll maximise her playing career before transitioning to the coaching role her management are seeking.
Ever since she starred for Ennis-based Lifford in her early teens, football seemed to be her profession in waiting.
A full international at 17 under Noel King, she racked up 45 caps over a decade, spending professional stints in American and Norway, only to walk away in 2012.
When she watched her team-mates go public with their grievances five years later, Curtin’s emotions were mixed by pride and regret.
“I was delighted that the girls took a stand but the sickening part was wondering what could’ve achieved in the right conditions,” she reflects.
“We didn’t qualify for a major tournament but there had been a stench all along that things just weren’t good enough. It was a difficult time to be an Ireland player.
“I’d been with FAI squads since the age of 14 and remember our team being put up in a dormitory for a senior international in San Marino.
“It was so frustrating representing your country when the FAI just weren’t funding it properly.
“From my perspective, it was logical to step away from international football. I needed to find a new career.”