Ireland’s Niamh Fahey says nothing can truly prepare team for World Cup opener

Ireland’s Niamh Fahey Says Nothing Can Truly Prepare Team For World Cup Opener
Republic of Ireland’s Niamh Fahey believes nothing can truly prepare her side for the atmosphere of a World Cup debut, © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Rachel Steinberg, PA, in Queensland

Republic of Ireland defender Niamh Fahey suspects no dress rehearsal, no matter how big the audience, could truly prepare her side for their World Cup debut.

That milestone moment is inching ever closer for the Girls in Green, whose first tilt at a global title begins Thursday against tournament co-hosts Australia on a double-billed opening day of the tournament kicking off with New Zealand taking on Norway in Auckland.


The Republic’s meeting with the Matildas proved so popular that as early as January it was moved to the competition’s largest venue, the 80,000-plus capacity Stadium Australia in Sydney.

“I don’t think you can realistically replicate that scenario, even if you wanted to try,” said Fahey, speaking at an open training session at Brisbane’s Meakin Park.

“You ready yourself like any other game and you try and not think about the outside. As cliche as that sounds, it’s 11 v 11 on the pitch and you focus on the game and yeah there’s noise, but to be honest, even in games where there’s been 40,000, 50,000, once the game is on you don’t really hear that crowd, that noise.


“It’s only the anticipation those first couple of minutes and once those five minutes, or once you’ve settled into the game I think it just becomes a formality in terms of how the game is going to pan out.

“I think if you can get through those first couple of minutes it makes all the difference, you don’t really hear it. Well, I don’t hear it anyway, so I can’t speak for everybody.”

The Republic only managed to get through about 20 minutes of their meeting with Colombia in an aborted behind-closed-doors friendly on Friday that sounded anything but amiable, with key midfielder Denise O’Sullivan rushed to hospital with a suspected shin injury.


An update on the team’s official Twitter account on Saturday morning provided an encouraging about the North Carolina Courage captain, reading: “Positive news for Denise O’Sullivan X-Ray and CT Scan show no fracture Denise will work with WNT Medical Staff on a return to play procedure.”

It is understood the decision was made to stop the match following some rough challenges in Friday’s contest.

A statement from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) read: “The behind-closed-doors game between the Ireland women’s national team and Colombia on Friday evening was ended after 20 minutes of play.

“The game, which was held in Meakin Park, Brisbane, became overly physical and it was decided, following consultation with the match officials, to end the game.”

The Colombian Football Federation released a statement of its own which said that, while the training of its teams was “framed within the rules of the game, healthy competition and fair play”, it respected the Republic’s decision.

Fahey, pictured with manager Vera Pauw, won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 2015
Fahey, pictured with manager Vera Pauw, won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 2015 (Brian Lawless/PA)

Republic manager Vera Pauw used the remainder of the time initially allocated for the friendly to instead run a full training session in preparation for the fast-approaching tournament opener, now her side’s next scheduled match.

Liverpool skipper Fahey has played in some massive venues before, winning the FA Cup with Chelsea at Wembley in 2015 before relinquishing the trophy to Arsenal in the finale the following year.

The 35-year-old Galway native, who watched the 2019 tournament from the stands in France, says her side are more than ready for their close-up.

She added: “We know that it’s going to be a challenge, but this is what we worked our whole careers for, to be on the biggest stage and for it to be sold out, switch to another stadium.

“Everyone was delighted with that. No one was like, ‘Oh god’, there was never any sense of trepidation, anything like that. Obviously it’s a massive occasion, there will be nerves, it’s natural.

“But that’s what you want. As an elite sports person you want the biggest stage. Everyone on this team wants to be on that pitch, wants to be on that platform, so you have to be ready to embrace it. That’s it.”

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