By Dave Donnelly
REPUBLIC of Ireland striker Amber Barrett is itching to get back to action as the Bundesliga 2 makes its return on Saturday following a five-month break.
Coronavirus enforced the shutdown of the German second tier in October, with Barrett’s FC Koln top of the table with three wins from their three games.
The former Peamount United player has at least had international breaks – the heartbreaking defeat in Ukraine that ended the Euro 2022 dream among them – to keep her ticking over.
She also featured in a 3-1 defeat to her country of residence to end the campaign, but she’ll be keen for her side to regain the momentum with which they started the season.
“Our league starts back now on March 21 – we have 13 games to go through but we have probably played three of the toughest games,” she says.
“And after winning the three of those I think the frustrating thing is the break and losing the momentum.”
Relegation from the top-tier Bundesliga in her first season has cost Barrett more than just the chance to compete day-to-day against the very best.
While the top league continued through the latest lockdown – albeit with a long winter break – the second tier was supended in late October after just three games.
It’s the culmination of what has been a disruptive spell for Barrett since deciding to make the move to Germany in the summer of 2019.
At the time, Barrett was the league’s top scorer and Peas were well on their way to regaining the league title, but the Raphoe native knew that she needed to test herself at a higher level.
Little did she know that the challenges that lay ahead on the continent would be more than just mere footballing ones.
“When I arrived out here, I certainly wasn’t expecting a global pandemic to come and sweep everything to the side,” she says.
“It’s still something that I’m learning everyday, when I go in and just see how things are done. I’m still adapting everyday to professional standard and what’s expected of you…
“The whole coronavirus experience has been a different one. It’s nearly gone back to normal here, but it’s not gone back to normal.
“A lockdown still exists, but they’ve started to ease things. More people are confident about going out and doing everything safely.”
While she’s had to bide her time at international level with Rianna Jarrett well-established as first-choice, she feels the learning environment at Koln helps her to raise her standard every day.
“It is a cliché but every day I got into training and I take something from it,” she says.
“I am very lucky that I have players on my team who have won the Women’s Champions League, the German league and German Cup.
“These are players who have played with some of the best players in the world and who have been successful.
“Seeing how they put themselves about in training, how they act, the little extra bits they do, it has made me aware of things I need to get better at.
“The physicality of it, it’s elite. You are running and running. It’s being able to withstand that. Every day I am taking something away.”
PHOTO CAPTION – Amber Barrett at the launch of the Spar FAI School Zone. Sign up by visiting: https://www.fai.ie/domestic/spar-fai-school-zone/register/ & www.spar.ie