Clare Shine has been tipped for football greatness since Noel King included her in his World Cup squad at just 15, but the Cork native was close to missing tonight’s U19 Uefa finals opener against Spain in Oslo (6pm Irish time).
When the 19-year-old suffered a broken leg while playing for Raheny United just 10 weeks ago, not even the most optimistic of medics offered her hope of a return for the eight-nation showpiece.
Devastation sunk in for Shine and Ireland manager Dave Connell, fearful the absence of his key player would diminish their prospects of emerging from the more difficult of the two groups that also includes England and Sweden.
Shine is made of stern stuff, however, and, just like her childhood buddy David Meyler, battled back from injury against the odds to declare herself fit for the tournament kick-off at the UKI Arena.
She said: “The doctors said my leg would be 12 weeks in a cast after which another six weeks of rehabilitation was needed. Luckily, the bone healed quickly and I started working on my fitness straight away.”
Shine is top scorer at underage level for the past three seasons but her experience from being part of the U17 squad that reached the European Championship finals and World Cup quarter-final in 2011 is invaluable.
“I was only 15 the last time I was at a major tournament under Noel King but taking the whole experience definitely stood to me,” said Shine.
“To play against Brazil in the World Cup was something I’ll always remember and has helped me progress. That’s not only for myself but the other girls in this squad because they’ve all been asking me about what to expect.”
Even accounting for her injury setback, Shine cites the season just gone as the best of her burgeoning career. Norway presents the platform to enhance that further.
“I won the FAI Cup and national league with Raheny and we’ve qualified for the Uefa Champions League again,” said the teen crowned FAI U19 Player of the Year in March.
“We’ve done our homework on Spain and are full of confidence.”
IRELAND (probable): Dunne (Peamount Utd); Wright (Texas University), McCarthy (Listowel Celtic), O’Connell (Wilton), Dwyer (Wexford Yths); O’Connor (Wilton), Mustaki (Peamount Utd), Connolly (College Corinthians); McCabe (Raheny Utd), Shine (Raheny Utd), Rowe (Castlebar Celtic).
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