"USA game a chance to focus minds" - Hourihan
But it is not the chance to play the World Cup winners at the famous Rose Bowl that is the opportunity in the Ireland number one’s eyes, but the extra preparation the team can do ahead of the European Qualifiers kicking-off in just over a month.
It has been a busy time for Hourihan since the WNT squad were last together – she has swapped the English Women’s Super League for the Campeonato Nacional in Portugal.
The move to SC Braga is one Hourihan feels will have a positive impact on her game and will allow her to play at the top level of European women’s football.
“I got presented with the opportunity and in terms of my own career, the opportunity to play in a different country with a different culture and language really intrigued me, but also the chance to play Champions League football again was something I felt I couldn’t turn down; I really want to test myself. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it and I definitely feel it has been the right decision for me,” said Hourihan.
This game is coming at a perfect time for the shot-stopper as she has settled in well to her new club and is fully focused on having a great footballing year, both playing in the Champions League and the European Championship qualifiers.
She said: “It’s been really good to get back together because we were last in camp in April. Obviously with the qualifiers coming up, it’s been really nice to be together as a group and you couldn’t get a much better setting than where we are now here in California and getting ready to play the World Champions, it’s an unbelievable opportunity and everyone is just excited now to play the game and experience the atmosphere at the Rose Bowl.”
The week is also a chance for the team to focus on their immediate ambitions – qualifying for England 2021 and the scale of this game is a great way to focus minds, according to the goalkeeper.
“It reaffirms everyone’s mindsets as to what we want to achieve and ultimately that’s qualifying for England in 2021, and so it’s great for us to get back on the field together and to get a few good training sessions under the belt, work on our systems and styles of play before we come together for that crucial game in September.”
Hourihan has been reflecting on that Italy game and feels the team can learn a lot from the tie.
She said: “We lost the game in April against the Italians but I think on reflection and watching the game back again, and our performance, I think you could see the step that this side has made in terms of the way that we’re playing and the confidence we have in each other; and going forward now we do genuinely believe that we are contenders to go and qualify for a major tournament. We’ve got to use teams like Italy as an example of what we can achieve because the margins between ourselves and Italy were very fine. But we also need to learn the lessons from that game.”
This summer’s World Cup has only increased their ambition and this squad is fully focused on being the first Irish women’s senior team to qualify for a major tournament.
“We know what a great fanbase any Irish team has and with how close the tournament will be, we know that we’d get unbelievable support. We just want to showcase ourselves in that environment and so the really important thing is just getting there and so that’s what we really need to focus on.”