Football wasn’t always Sinead Farrelly’s friend, but as she sat down in Brisbane last Saturday morning and reflected on the fact that she’s now a World Cup player, she felt some of that old passion for the game was reignited.
In a better world, Farrelly could be at her third World Championship. She was selected for the US national team before the 2011 tournament in Germany, but her then-club coach Paul Riley persuaded her to turn down the invitation – it was part of Riley’s compulsive and controlling pattern of behavior towards the young footballer.
So she had to wait 12 years to show what she can do on the biggest stage. Not that she looks back in anger.
“I can look back on my life and have faith that everything happened the way it was supposed to happen.” I think there was a time when I was living in my past. More of a victim mentality. Why me? This is what my life should look like. Now I’m in a state of gratitude. “I have faith that I’m where I’m supposed to be,” the 33-year-old told the traveling Irish press at the team hotel on Brisbane’s South Bank.
Farrelly is a deeply spiritual person. She prays every day and considers the Bible her favorite book, while also keeping a journal to express her thoughts and feelings. She has filled many pages during the team’s stay in Brisbane as the midfielder has tried to understand what it means to her to be on the game’s biggest stage.
Although Sinead Farrelly could play at her third World Championship, she is now at the tournament
Farrelly loves to keep a journal to take notes, write prayers and write down her feelings
The striker started Ireland’s opening World Cup match against Australia, which ended 1-0 for the hosts
“I’ve been writing diaries for a long time. There is no organization. I just love to write. Sometimes it’s about taking notes. Sometimes it’s prayers I write. Sometimes it’s just about expressing my feelings. Sometimes it’s like I’m going analytical. But it’s better for me to get it out of paper than to keep it inside.
“I wrote in my diary for a long time after the Australia game. It’s really helpful for me, almost a confirmation at times. Because my mind will lie to me and tell me that it was my fault that the team lost. That’s why I just have to keep writing that it’s not your fault we lost!
“It’s almost like I’m in a constant battle with myself.” This isn’t forever. And I’ve made great progress. But when you’re fighting the way your brain has worked for decades, it just takes a little time. I now know that I cannot give these thoughts any space. I must immediately contrast them with something positive or the opposite of it. Sometimes I just write the same thing over and over again. And it will only ease my illusion and that will help.”
It’s perhaps understandable that the 33-year-old, whose father Sean is from Virginia in Cavan, constantly needs to remind herself that she’s talented enough to be here. She’s been through a lot, from Riley’s sexual assault and abuse behavior to the car accident that left her from the game in her early 20s with injuries and a concussion.
It’s no wonder she’s constantly struggling with anxiety and nervousness and she was joined 24 hours before kick-off.
“I was so nervous and scared and had a lot of fears, so I think that sometimes spoils the mood.” I did my best to be there. I really want to enjoy every moment of it. There are many levels and many emotions. Sometimes it’s not that easy, even though I wish it was. I enjoy it as much as I can. I know this is a special moment and means a lot to me and I’m really grateful to be here and have the opportunity.
“I was fine when the game started, but before that I was physically ill for 24 hours. I did not feel well. I just trusted that I would be fine when the whistle blew. You have to concentrate on the game and not sink into your own head so that everything will be fine in the end. There was a lot of emotion and energy in that first game, but I did well.”
The 33-year-old has been open about her battle with anxiety and nervousness, but is determined not to let it get her down
To keep the likes of Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley at bay, Farrelly was forced to adopt a more reserved role against Australia, supporting and protecting Heather Payne at right flank. She was still responsible for one of the game’s greatest moments, her beautiful backheel against Payne after beating Foord in the first half. It was one of her 27 touches in the 63 minutes that the Gotham City player was on the field.
“I don’t respect where I am on the field.” “I’ll just play as I am, even in our own box,” she explains. For me it was a problem solver. She [Foord] was on me so I backed out because Heather was there and I knew she was going to make it. We had the ball so it worked. It could have backfired, but my brain doesn’t think that way. That means I play instinctively and then do my best.”
And although Ireland ultimately lost on Thursday, the performance, particularly in the second half, suggests Pauw’s side can make an impact in the tournament.
Ireland’s performances have given much encouragement and they have the ability to impress
Farrelly has expressed her desire to be more offensive in games, to get on the ball and play
“It was a two-half story.” The first half was much more defensive and that’s not as fun. I want to stay on the ball in my position. I want to be more offensive, but we all play selfless roles and have to do what we’re told and what the team needs. In the second half, our team was able to attack and create more chances.”
Pauw has hinted she’ll let the team loose a bit more against an aging Canada side who have been struggling in a stalemate with Nigeria without Jessica Fleming, their most influential player. Farrelly has played alongside veteran striker Christine Sinclair in the past but is focused on what Ireland can do in the game.
“I focus less on them and more on us.” I believe in this team so much and I know that if we all work together, we can beat anyone. Canada is a great team. I know some individuals but that has nothing to do with it, everyone has to play together as a team. The best team can and will win. I trust that we must come together. We strive for victory. I’m excited about that.’
It’s been a long, hard road for Sinead Farrelly, but she feels this World Cup is helping her recovery – and allowing her to regain faith in the sport.