Saoirse Noonan and Danielle Burke must put their friendship on hold at the Cross

Cork City Women's squad take on Shels and their former star
Saoirse Noonan and Danielle Burke must put their friendship on hold at the Cross

Shelbourne Women FC new signing Saoirse Noonan poses for a portrait at her home in Grange, Cork. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THE decision by Saoirse Noonan to swap Cork City for Shelbourne in February not only meant that Danielle Burke was losing a talented teammate, but she was also losing one of her best friends at the club.

To mark the end of an era, during which they helped City win the Women’s FAI Cup in 2017, Burke made a heartfelt parting gift for Noonan: a photo book of their best memories playing football together.

“It was a big deal. We made a lot of memories together. She was a big part of my career and I just wanted to do something so she would remember the good times at City,” says Burke.

“It was tough to see her go. That’s the way football goes, you have to deal with players coming and going.

“She was a great character in the team but I’m delighted for her. It is a step she needed to take and I hope it really does pay off for her and she gets the call up [to the Ireland senior squad] she deserves."

Their friendship will be put on hold this Saturday afternoon though as Burke, wearing green in the heart of the City defence, is set to mark Noonan, who is likely to play up front wearing the red of Shels.

But it won’t be the first time they have faced each other.

“It’s going to be weird playing against Saoirse, the last time I played against her was in secondary school”, says Burke, recalling the time she played for St Peters against Christ King.

“She beat me. I think she scored as well, so hopefully it will be a different result this time.

“Saoirse would’ve been one of my best friends growing up. We met playing football and it was always me and her with the Ireland teams, City teams, and stuff like that.

“She is one of my really good friends, I’m always onto her seeing how she is getting on so there is no bad blood between us. But for the 90 minutes, I don’t think we will be friends that much to be honest.”

As it happens, the pair will also take part in a momentous day for the Leesiders, who will play in their new home for the first time this season.

“It’s a huge game on Saturday, our first home game at Turner’s Cross. It will be a huge honour so hopefully, we can do ourselves justice with it as well”, says Burke, who is hoping to improve her record at the stadium.

“I actually have such a bad track record there. I played there once with Passage under 12s and we lost against Lakewood. We played there with City against Wexford in the Development Shield Final and we lost, and then for Ireland, we lost there also.

“Not the best record, but I’m hoping to change it around. We’re not going to let the occasion get to us.

“We’re going to do the same thing we do every week, train the same way, play the same way, and focus on the game rather than the occasion.

When you are a young player in Cork you always dream of playing at Turner’s Cross for a cup final but to be able to call it our home ground now is great, we are buzzing.

“I think we deserve it as well. We are a Cork City team, we are a part of the club so it’s only fair to have both teams playing there.”

City opened their campaign with a hard-fought 3-3 draw away to Galway last weekend and the 21-year-old believes they will need to show the same character that saw them come from 2-0 and 3-2 behind when they face Shels.

“It’s a good start for us and we showed great character,” she says.

“Shels are obviously one of the top sides in the league so it will be a tough battle for us.

“We will need to stand our ground, stand up to them and stay in the game as long as we can and hopefully we can come out with a win.

“It’s early days in the season but if we can put our mark on it as soon as we can we will only improve from there. We are going in there believing we can get a result.”

It’s always a big occasion when Cork City take on Shelbourne but the battle between Danielle Burke and her friend Saoirse Noonan at Turner’s Cross adds another interesting dimension.

So what will happen if there’s a 50:50 challenge between them in the opening stages of the game?

“That could be a hefty one,” says Burke.

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