Education a key part of the journey for WNT players
This could very well be the most educated five-a-side team in women’s football, should Vera Pauw toss the training bibs to certain players in her 26-strong panel currently in Australia.
The Ireland Women’s National Team has a long history with players who have balanced their footballing careers with earning third level qualifications. And this current squad is no different with 23 of the 26 players having attended college.
The 23 players in the full squad, plus the three training players, have all benefitted from education at some stage, whether that is at Primary & Secondary School level, attending a specific course or going on to earn third level qualifications. It is why the squad collectively promotes the importance of education.
“When I was starting out in football, becoming a full-time professional player was still in the early stages so having education as a fall-back had to be part of my decision-making,” said Niamh Fahey.
The Galway native started out in the University of Galway studying for a Bsc in Pharmacology before a move to Arsenal saw her switch to the University of Hertfordshire to eventually complete a Msc in Pharmacology. That is quite an achievement for anyone, but it’s even more impressive considering she was winning trophies with the best team in England and establishing herself on the international scene with Ireland at the same time.
Fahey, who has earned 108 senior caps, long since ditched the attitude of education being a ‘fall-back’ option and she sees it being vital to her future. Now at Liverpool, she is in the middle of completing an MBA in International Business at John Moores University.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed so many great experiences by playing football and I hope the best is still to come with the World Cup. I know though that I can’t keep playing forever so starting a second career has to be on my mind and I have been doing a lot of work to prepare for that,” said Fahey.
“I believe It is something everyone should keep in mind. Absolute pursue your goal of becoming a professional footballer, if that is what you want, but don’t discount the importance of education and the long term avenues that it can open up.”
Amber Barrett shares that perspective. Hailing from Donegal, she completed a BA in English & History at Maynooth University before earning a Msc in Education (Secondary School Teaching) in Dublin City University. Similar to Fahey, she did it whilst chasing the dream of becoming a footballer.
With her qualifications secured, Barrett felt that the time was right to take that leap into the unknown by joining FC Koln in Germany. Since then she has amassed 36 senior caps, scoring seven goals – including that famous World Cup-qualifying strike away to Scotland in a Play-Off in Hampden Park – and moved to Turbine Potsdam in Germany before joining her latest club, Standard Liege in Belgium.
“It doesn’t have to be one or the other when it comes to football and education. Yes, there are a lot of demands involved with playing at an elite level but it is most certainly worth the time that you invest in studying alongside it,” said Barrett.
A number of Irish colleges offer sports scholarships to aspiring footballers, while the BA Sports & Management course in South East Technological University (SETU) has proved to be particularly popular with several members of the WNT squad in recent years.
Many Irish colleges offer sports-specific courses that will also appeal to secondary school students considering their CAO options or others taking on post-graduate opportunities.