** Niamh Farrell, left, in action against Galway WFC earlier this year. Picture: Francis Kennedy/Eirephoto
The first week of January marks a new departure for Lucan’s Niamh Farrelly as she takes the first tentative steps into the world of professional football.
A stellar performance in Peamount United’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Glasgow City in the Champions League in November caught the eye of manager Scott Booth.
He took little time in making his interest known and within a couple of weeks, the 21-year-old had made her choice to tear up her life for a chance that was too good to pass up.
“It only happened since the Champions League qualifier. They got in touch with me after the game and it’s been brewing since then,” Farrelly tells the Dublin Gazette.
“I’ve been in talks with them and then made my final decision about a week before we played the Shels game [that sealed the title] in the league. I made my decision then that I was going to go.”
Farrelly started 2020 as a midfielder on the fringe of the international side and, 12 months later, ranks as one of Irish football’s top defenders.
A cruciate knee injury to captain Louise Corrigan ruled out the first-choice centre-half for the season and Peas manager James O’Callaghan saw in Farrelly the attributes to step in alongside Claire Walsh.
Just nine goals conceded across 16 games in all competitions, including a first-ever league and cup double and that Champions League game, propelled her to a pro contract.
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“[Booth] was saying they look for centre-halves who can play football, and I’d like to think I’m that type of player.
“I’m just going over there to prove I’m good enough to play at a professional level and we’ll learn from the girls.
“There are a lot of senior internationals over there that I can learn a lot from, so hopefully I’ll develop my game and push the team on to more success this season.”
The end goal is to establish herself long-term at international level, where experienced pros Louise Quinn and Diane Caldwell form a tight partnership that will be difficult to break into.
“They’re playing much more and they’ve a wealth of experience; I’ve just got to keep working and take every opportunity that I get, whether it’s just few minutes playing international.
“I want to take it to try and take those chances, get in there and push myself because that’s the ultimate goal.”
Farrelly, who joined Peamount’s underage set-up aged 11, after stints with Beechpark and Esker Celtic and broke into the first team aged 16, reserved special praise for her former club.
“They couldn’t have helped me any more. When I first went into the senior team, we were kind of in a transition period as a club.
“A lot of players had left at the time which suited us young girls coming up because we got the chance to play at that level.
“I remember one Halloween night we went down to Wexford and lost 8-1, so there was a big transition there and they helped that and they got good players in as well.
“The club are great and I couldn’t thank enough for what they done for me. They showcase girls in Ireland, and only for Peamount I probably wouldn’t be playing international football.”