Cabinteely’s Chloe Mustaki captained Ireland as they equalled their best-ever result at the Summer Universiade – the World University Games – in Naples this month.
Ireland produced the upset of the competition by not only beating, but dominating in the possession stats, holders Brazil in their opening game, topping their group with two wins from two.
Goalkeeper Amanda McQuillan both scored and saved a penalty in the quarter-final shoot-out with China but Ireland came unstuck against North Korea in the semis.
The 30-plus-degree heat and relentless schedule of a game every two or three days eventually took its toll on Ireland’s amateur players.
They led 2-0 in the third-place play-off game with Russia with 15 minutes remaining. But they were pegged back before losing on penalties.
That results still sticks in the former Parkvilla and St Joseph’s Girls player’s craw, but their achievement as the lowest-ranked team going into the tournament will remain a point of pride.
“Looking back on it, there are definitely positive memories that outweight the negative memories of losing out on a medal,” the former Ireland Under-19 captain told the Dublin Gazette.
“We gave it everything we had on the day [against Russia]. We were definitely unlucky. I really believe we were the better team. But that’s football – what can you do?
“We gave it everything we had, we had a great tournament, and some girls are getting a look at now as a result of that now, and that’s great for them, and hopefully that will be the case for more of us.”
The 23-year-old, who plays with Shelbourne after moving from DLR Waves in the off-season, has just returned from a semester in Lisbon as part of her international management masters with UCD.
The former Peamount United and Waves player previously spent a few months with French Ligue 1 side Girondins de Bordeaux while on an Erasmus year in the 2016/17 season.
Still, it was perhaps a surprise to play in a side who enjoyed 70% possession against a team like Brazil, but the fact Shels manager Dave Bell was assistant coach helped.
“We didn’t have too many training sessions prior to the tournament so, before we arrived, I wasn’t sure how it would go, but the team and the management were so different from two years ago.
“Once we arrived, the coaching staff started to instil belief in us that we could progress into the tournament and we could get somewhere, maybe into medal contention, which we did in the end.
“It was just the self-belief and the hard work and determination that got us there in the end. Irish teams, unfortunately, are known for being hard-working as opposed to good football players.”