Tuesday 03 March 2020, 08:22

Fahey: EURO debut would be monumental

  • Niamh Fahey braced for key EURO double-header

  • Republic of Ireland veteran predicts big impact should they qualify

  • Midfielder also fighting for top-flight survival with Liverpool

“You couldn’t even guess the magnitude. It would be monumental. A breakthrough moment for Irish women’s football.”

It's safe to say that it sounds like the Republic of Ireland women’s team reaching a major tournament would be quite the event. When someone as integral to the nation’s recent history as Niamh Fahey speaks, her opinion carries plenty of weight.

The 32-year-old Liverpool defensive midfielder has won it all in English football. The one thing that would be the icing on an already glorious career would be walking out in the green of her country at an international competition.

“Oh, it’s something that’s massive for me. So many attempts and so many failures,” Fahey admitted to FIFA.com, with her embroiled in a fourth attempt to reach the UEFA Women’s EURO. “We’re in a good group and an OK position. We’ve got crunch games coming up thick and fast, but it would be a dream to qualify.”

Three games in, Fahey and Co. find themselves with a solid start. Sat behind Germany in Group I, the former Arsenal and Chelsea player accepts that “realistically we’re targeting second” – which will glean either one of three automatic places or a play-off ticket. But while seven points from three games is none too shabby, the lack of a perfect record does irk somewhat.

Megan Connolly of Republic of Ireland celebrates after the game with Niamh Fahey

“We’re just disappointed with the draw away to Greece,” she said, having seen their lead wiped out at the death in Athens. “We definitely got rid of any preconceptions that games against the teams seeded below us would be easy. We got away with it in a sense that it was a massive eye-opener for us as a group.”

So, when the Greeks roll into Dublin on Thursday, Irish senses are going to be heightened on home soil. “We can’t afford any more slip-ups and Tallaght [Stadium] is kind of like a fortress for us. We’ve had great support in the last couple of games and had a special atmosphere.”

Seeing that support in full force at a tournament is a definite motivation, too. Particularly when EURO 2021 is just a short skip away across the Irish Sea in England. “I don’t think we could dream of a better way to play in your first tournament. It would be massive,” said Fahey.

“Everyone knows Irish fans are notorious for their support and getting behind their team and having a good sense of a party! If any sports team of ours is doing well, the public back them massively, so we’ll do our best not to disappoint!”

Liverpool's Niamh Fahey and Brighton's Kayleigh Green prepare to challenge for a drop ball

Following a subsequent trip to Montenegro next week, Fahey will have little time to breathe, as she’s currently waist deep in a new experience: a relegation battle. “This is all new territory for me and I’m weirdly enjoying the challenge of being under the kosh,” she said, with Liverpool at the foot of the Women’s Super League and clashes with leaders Manchester City and Merseyside rivals Everton on the horizon.

“I’d obviously be a lot more stress-free and comfortable if we could climb off the bottom and have a bit more daylight, but it’s a different type of challenge and one I think we’ll come through. I like challenging myself and playing in big games and right now every game is a big game. I’m relishing that challenge.”

With her twin focuses in red and green, there’s huge matches wherever she looks and, should she come out on top, the vast rewards speak for themselves.