FEW sports personalities enjoyed as stellar a year as Saoirse Noonan in 2020.
Not content with winning a county junior football title in the colours of Nemo Rangers or helping Cork reach an All-Ireland LGFA senior final, Noonan also led Cork City Women to an FAI Cup decider.
Add in a first Republic of Ireland senior international call-up and the 21-year-old can be extremely proud of her efforts on four different fronts.
Having recovered from a long-term injury, Saoirse Noonan repeatedly hit the headlines throughout last year thanks to her consistent soccer and GAA performances.
Last November is a case in point when Noonan netted Cork’s all-important goal in seeing off Kerry in the LGFA senior football championship.
The following day, Noonan confirmed Cork City’s place in the FAI Cup final thanks to a brace of goals in a 2-0 win over Treaty United.
That same Sunday afternoon, Vera Pauw included Noonan in a Republic of Ireland senior squad for the first time, for a pivotal European championship qualifier against Germany.
When it comes to GAA, Noonan is regarded as one of the country’s most prominent forwards having overcome an injury-ravaged couple of years to make her mark in the Cork senior setup.
The talented individual excelled alongside Mourneabbey’s Doireann O’Sullivan and West Cork’s Áine Terry O’Sullivan in Ephie Fitzgerald’s full-forward line during the 2020 campaign.
In a 38-player squad bulging with attacking talent, the Nemo Rangers stalwart made her mark, beginning with a contribution of 1-2 in the 1-14 to 0-14 TG4 All-Ireland LGFA SFC Group 1 win away to Kerry.
Next, Noonan rocketed home a scorching goal and finished with a personal haul of 2-2 in Cork’s second Group 1 victory over Cavan in Birr.
Closely marked in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat of Galway, Noonan did a huge amount of unseen work off the ball to help Cork register a 2-17 to 0-13 triumph.
Alas, Dublin proved a step too far for Ephie Fitzgerald’s team in the All-Ireland final, running out 1-10 to 1-5 winners.
Despite that disappointment, Noonan consoled herself with the fact she played a role in Nemo Rangers’ successful Cork LGFA junior C championship.
Rangers won the 2020 junior C trophy following an unblemished group record before overcoming Carrigaline 6-9 to 2-8 in the county final. Nemo will be a force in this year’s junior B ranks whenever inter-county star Noonan is named amongst their forwards.
Admirably, Noonan mirrored her consistent Nemo and Cork performances whenever representing Cork City during an equally productive season. So much so, that transfer rumours involving moves to Aston Villa, London City Lionesses or Vikingur (Iceland) were mentioned.
That’s hardly surprising when you consider the number 10’s goal-scoring prowess and ability to hold up possession as well as knit midfield with attack.
Yet, for all her on-field heroics, the fact Saoirse Noonan took time out of such a hectic schedule to coach young children during the pandemic was another highlight of 2020.
The FAI qualified coach decided to put her talents to good use and offered individual or small group-sized soccer or GAA training sessions for young children.
The response was overwhelming and Noonan was delighted to put her coaching skills into action: “For me, that was an opportunity to give back to two sports that have given me so much and I’m thrilled with how things worked out,” Noonan said.
“‘I hold an FAI National D coaching licence that I received from the FAI thanks to Niall O’Regan. I have been coaching with the Cork LGFA Cúl Camps for years as well.
“The idea of running my own personalised coaching sessions was an opportunity that I thought about a lot before eventually deciding to go for it.
There were no summer camps and not much for kids to do so why not give them a chance of taking part in focused training sessions while I had the free time?
“I had to start off small because of the restrictions and be extra-careful when it came to the proper social distancing guidelines. There were a lot of rules around what you could and couldn’t do even within a small, structured training session.
“Thankfully, the lifting of travel restrictions allowed me to get out around the county and things really took off.”
What a year 2020 was for Saoirse Noonan.
The instantly likeable individual consistently produced the goods at GAA club and inter-county level as well as up front for Cork City Women’s. 2021 could be even better, but it will be in different colour red as she joined Shelbourne in the past few weeks and has opted out of playing for the Cork footballers for this year.