Qualification the goal for WU19 star Nolan


Qualification the goal for WU19 star Nolan

Hayley Nolan knows all about playing in the UEFA European Championships with the Republic of Ireland Women's Under 19s and that is why she wants to experience it again.
4th Apr 2016

Two years ago, the Kildare native was part of Dave Connell's talented squad - known as 'The History Girls' - who marched all the way to the semi-finals of the tournament in Norway. Back then she was a fringe player, but now she's a senior.

For the last year, Nolan has been dreaming about playing a starring role at a EURO Finals and she gets an opportunity to make that happen this week as Ireland kick off their Elite Phase qualifiers on home soil.

First up on Tuesday is Germany (KO 19:30, Tallaght Stadium) before meeting Azerbaijan on Thursday (KO 19:30, Tallaght Stadium), and then facing off against Poland on Sunday (KO 14:00, Tallaght Stadium). Three tough assignments but Nolan is ready for them. 

"I want to get back to the finals. It would be even better this time because I was only really a substitute breaking into the squad in 2014; now I'm more of someone in the mix to play games," said Nolan.

"This is a great squad and any of the girls can slot in and not weaken us. I want to be able to drive the girls forward as much as I can from midfield and use the experience that I got from the last EURO finals.

"Obviously I want us to qualify for the finals in Slovakia this summer, but I also want us to win it. But first things first, we need to beat Germany in our first game."

Nolan's confidence is refreshing and also shared amongst the Ireland squad, where work ethic and teamwork are valued as highly as technique or ambition. This is a group that wants to win together.

It is one of the reasons why 19-year-old Nolan is always excited to report back in for duty. Almost every other day of the year she is based in Hartford, Connecticut, where she studies Business & Finance and plays for a Division 1 college team.

Full-time training has clearly benefitted the fleet-footed midfielder as she is noticeably stronger off the ball and more accurate on it, although she is quick to brush off any plaudits in favour of promoting her team.

"I have definitely improved since moving to America. I'm doing a lot of gym work and getting great training in, but you need a team of players to win games and that is what is important," said Nolan.

"We have a great team spirit in this group and Dave [Connell] really motivates us. We all want to qualify for the finals and that is the only thing that matters right now."

Tuesday, April 5: Republic of Ireland v Germany - Tallaght Stadium, KO 19:30
Thursday, April 7: Republic of Ireland v Azerbaijan - Tallaght Stadium, KO 19:30
Sunday, April 10: Republic of Ireland v Poland - Tallaght Stadium, KO 14:00

Tickets are available at Tallaght Stadium, priced €5 for adults and €2 for children