TWO Cork girls are part of Tom Elmes Republic of Ireland women’s Under 16 squad who take on England in a double header in Waterford this week.
Former Wilton United and Lakewood players respectively Ellie O’Brien and Heidi O’Sullivan should be two key players for Elmes side and both girls are thrilled to be part of the squad.
“It means the world to myself and my family for me being selected for the Irish U16 squad, said O’Brien.
"It is such an achievement to be playing at such a high level so I am really proud of myself.”
The talented midfielder received her first cap at Under 15 schools level and from here was given an opportunity to try out for the Under 16 squad where she feels she stood out amongst the trialiasts.
“I was part of the 15s Irish schools team and although that was cut short due to covid we were given an opportunity to go for a trial for the 16s. I felt so much stronger, faster and fitter at the trials and that was no doubt down to the excellent recent one to one coaching from Conor Meade of Maximum football.”
The 16 year old from Shanakiel joined Wilton at the age of nine and from early days showed huge signs of potential and through hard work and the support from her parents, brother and grandmothers, O’Brien has progressed hugely in the game and has recently signed for Cork City 17s in the National league.
“I joined Wilton at the age of nine and I was lucky to be part of an excellent squad who were undefeated for years under the guidance of Barbara O’Connell, John McHale, Pat Bowdren and Pat O'Driscoll.
"I developed hugely as a player. Through the coaching and style of play at Wilton it attracted me to the Munster schools teams which I played on for two years which then led me to the attention of an international schools team.
"At around the same time our school Kerrypike National school won the schools Spar 5 a side in the Aviva and I received player of the tournament so again I imagine that also brought me to the attention of the International team.
“I’ve enjoyed many great years with Wilton and now I’ve just signed with Cork City so hopefully I can push on and play week in week out while continuing to progress at International level also.”
Another key player for Elmes side will be O’Sullivan who is currently playing for Limerick side Treaty United in the Under 17 National league. Scoring two goals in her sides win over Waterford set her up nicely before she departed for camp and she too is looking forward to the experience of playing against England.
“It's a great privilege and honour for me personally to be selected to represent my country, it is something I have always worked towards achieving,” said O’Sullivan. To pull on the Irish jersey is a great feeling and is something my family are all so very proud of.
“Playing with the 15's Schools definitely played a big part in bringing me to the attention of Tom Elmes and the 16's Squad but there were previous performances, teams and coaches that I was lucky enough to be involved with and play under that brought me to the attention of the 16's squad also.
"These include the Munster Schools which I played with for two years, Women's National League, Cork Women's Schoolgirls League, FAI Emerging Talent Programmes and developing in my schoolgirls club Lakewood AFC all had an impact on my development to reach this stage.”
The 16 year old from Frankfield had a brief spell with Douglas Hall at schoolgirls level but played most of her time with Ovens side Lakewood.
A passionate football family it was always evident the striker/midfielder would be involved in the game at a high level.
“I became interested in soccer as it was always a huge part of our household with my Dad managing Men's teams and my brother playing also.
“I loved my time at Lakewood under Ger Cahill and Chris Condon gaining a lot of success. I then went into play a lot with the boys in which I believe really developed me as a player.
"I also had huge success with my school as oil Nioclais, Frankfield in the FAI Primary School's 5 a-sides, we won the Cork, Munster and played in the National Final's in the Aviva which was an amazing experience.”
O’Sullivan was the youngest member of Cork City 17s league winning side last year, however she has made the move to Limerick side Treaty this season and she will captain the side where she hopes to pick up more silverware.