Wednesday 26 July 2023, 07:00

Hehir: “I'm inspired to be the best coach possible”

  • Irene Hehir is currently a participant on FIFA’s Coach Education Scholarship Programme

  • The Irishwoman is concurrently studying for her UEFA A licence

  • "When you step out of your comfort zone, magical things can happen"

It was a magical and history-making moment for the Republic of Ireland players making their debut on the global stage of women’s football in Sydney / Gadigal on 20 July. In front of a record crowd of 75,784, the women’s national team wrote history as they went toe-to-toe with one of the co-hosts. The match also represented a special moment for Irene Hehir. The former Ireland international earned five caps and scored four goals before an injury ended her international career. As one door closed, another opened, as Irene embarked on a career in elite coaching, starting with her UEFA B Women's Coaching Licence in 2018.

“It has been a lot of hard work and a long journey for Irish women. Over the last 20 years, many players tried to qualify for a World Cup. Those 23 players currently in Australia are inspiring me to be the best coach I can possibly be. For the future, we want to ensure we have more coaches to support the next generation of players and guide them to realise their dreams” the Irishwoman explained. To get closer to that goal, Hehir is currently pursuing the UEFA A Licence while also being one of the 41 participants on FIFA’s Coach Education Scholarship Programme. "I was both excited and very nervous when I found out I had been accepted on the FIFA programme. I was going to meet somebody I had never met before, who would be my mentor. I asked myself: Am I going to be good enough to do this? I had a little bit of self-doubt. “After the first meeting it went so well. I was delighted to be offered a place on the scholarship. I knew how important it is to be able achieve something like this, and also how it will help to me during my A License studies as well.”

Irene’s mentor is German coach Anouschka Bernhard. Bernhard coached both the U-16 and U-17 juniors of the German Football Association for several years and is currently responsible for talent development at all levels of women's football in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. “Anouschka has such huge experience. I love listening to her talk. She has been involved in the game for so long. She talks about the good things in her career, but also the difficult times, and how she reacted to those. I have learned a lot from her over the last couple of months” detailed Hehir. “Anouschka has challenged me as well. She asks me questions and really makes me think about what makes football important to me; what being a good coach means as well. She encourages me to express myself and not be afraid to make mistakes sometimes. That is part of the learning process when you are a coach.”

Hehir describes their time together as a "kind of shared teamwork" and explained how her mentor has encouraged her to think more for herself too. “It is a massive benefit to any coach who is trying to gain experience, to have someone like Anouschka help you become the best you can possibly be. My mentor is a female coach, but now she’s also my role model. Anouschka has inspired me to want to have the same relationship and become a role model for the next person that comes through in Ireland. “When I was growing up, I never thought that I would be able to do the A License. It seemed a goal that was too far away for me. Now I am very proud of myself. I have this opportunity and absolutely want to make the most of it.”

You can’t miss up on an opportunity like this programme. If it comes, you have to take it. When you step out of your comfort zone, that’s when magic can happen.

Irene Hehir
FIFA Coach Education Scholarship participant