IN the lead-up to their Euro 2022 qualifier away to Ukraine, Ireland women’s manager, Vera Pauw, spoke about what Saoirse Noonan needed to do to break into her senior squad.
Pauw said that for the Cork City forward to be better than the other attackers in the squad, she should play against boys. That advice didn’t go unnoticed.
“I do train with boys, here and there, but with current circumstances, there’s no senior team playing that I can train with,” said Noonan, who has represented Ireland underage.
“I play five-a-side against boys, but when you are playing in the Women’s National League, the training is intense enough.
“We train four nights a week and a game at the weekend, and I play with Cork GAA, as well, so there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is, but it is something I will look to do more.
“There’s no better feeling than putting on that Irish jersey,” Noonan said.
“Having Vera say that she is watching me is another positive for me going forward. It’s something I have my eye on and would love to break-in in the future. I’ll just try to keep going as best as I can and keep improving.”
The City number 10 is in excellent form and she played a key role when her club won seven games on the bounce in all competitions, six of those in the league.
Although she still dreams of a call-up to the Irish team, she did receive a text from the FAI recently to inform her that she was named the WNL player of the month for September.
“You look at the players in the league, I think there were nine players brought up into the Irish senior team for the last camp,” Noonan said.
“For any player in the league, that’s in the back of their mind: Can I get into Vera’s team?
“Of course, winning something like this boosts your confidence. It gives you a bit of encouragement, gives you that self-belief that you are on the right track, and can make it there some day.
“Winning an award like this, in a competitive league with top, top players, is something that I didn’t really expect.
But while individual honours are greatly appreciated, the main objective for the 21-year-old is success with her teammates.
The Leesiders kick off their Phase Two campaign this weekend, with another trip to Shelbourne, where they were beaten 3-1 on the opening weekend of Phase One.
But City have learned since that defeat and Noonan is confident they can prove it as they chase a top-three finish — the club’s highest-ever finish is third — and a second FAI Cup triumph, with their semi-final showdown against Munster rivals, Treaty United, to come Sunday week.
“We can make history,” Noonan said. “We have already made history, because I don’t think we have ever won six league games in a row. We all want to be successful — everyone wants to win more — so we are definitely going to push on from here.
“We had too much respect for the top teams at the beginning — we didn’t start the way we wanted — but we know that we are capable of competing against them now.
“There is great talent here, there is great talent still coming through, as well, and I’m sure, in the next two or three years, Cork City will be up there fighting for first place in the league regularly.
“But for now, we have to take it one game at a time and work our way up there, keeping the players that we have and keep on developing together,” Noonan said.
“We will go at Shelbourne from the start, because I think we have learned from our mistakes. We want to play the way we know how to play and the way we enjoy playing, not playing with a focus on the other team.
“Looking back at the last day against them, we felt we killed ourselves off in the first half.
“We gave ourselves no chance and if you are going to leave a team like Shels play, they are going to tear you apart. We gave them too much respect on the day.”