REPUBLIC of Ireland striker Amber Barrett made nationwide headlines in April when her first international goal – a wonderful late strike against Slovakia – kept alive Ireland’s dream of qualifying for next year’s Women’s World Cup in France.
The talented Milford student is part of the new generation of young players brought into the set-up by Ireland manager Colin Bell.
Amber (22) joins up wih the rest of the squad in a training camp on Monday next ahead of crucial World Cup qualifying games home and away against Norway followed by what could be a huge home match against Northern Ireland on the final day in August.
They began the campaign with a 2-0 derby win against Northern Ireland last September before winning 2-0 in Slovakia. The result of the competition so far came in the form of a 0-0 draw away to the current European Champions Netherlands in November before Amber scored her late, late winner against Slovakia in front of 3,500 supporters in Tallaght in early April. Ireland would lose their first qualifier a week later – 2-0 at home to Holland.
Amber has just finished the first of a two-year teaching Masters degree in DCU and the former dual star is throwing all her weight behind Ireland’s World Cup bid over the coming weeks.
Speaking from Dublin this week, Amber said that to qualify for a World Cup would be a dream come true.
“The Norwegians are here on June 8 before we travel out there to play them on June 12. We can’t afford any more defeats and we need a few big results. Our preparations will be second to none and we’re well capable of causing an upset.
“We go into camp on Monday and we’ll have five days of intense preparation before the first Norway game. We’ll go into it with all guns blazing,” she said.
A talented Donegal GAA player, Amber took the decision to concentrate on the Ireland Women’s football team last year.
“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I’m spending my summer here in Dublin and don’t get home as often as I would like but if it gets me to the World Cup then it will have all been worthwhile,” she said.
Amber is one of four Donegal girls on the current Ireland squad alongside teenagers Tyler Toland (St Johnston) and Amy Boyle Carr (Glenties) as well as Roma McLaughlin (Greencastle).
“I’ve never seen as many Donegal girls involved in an Irish squad. There’s a lot of good coaching going on in Donegal. I was well looked after by both Brid McGinty and Trevor Scanlon and there’s many other fine coaches in Donegal Ladies football.
“Unfortunately Roma (knee) is unlikely to be fit enough this time around while Amy is out as she’s doing her Leaving Cert,” she said.
Top scorer in the National League with Peamount United last season, Amber continues to perform well for the Dublin team who currently sit a point behind Wexford Ladies in the table.
Co-captain of Ireland at the World University Games in Taiwan last year, she enjoys the extra responsibility that comes with being a team leader.
“We’ve a very young squad compared with Norway who are a team of full-time professional players. Most of us are amateurs and it’s going to be a mammoth task. They have two girls who recently won the Champions League with Lyon – that just shows where they’re at,” she said.
Getting paid for playing football remains an ambition but Amber feels she has some work to do yet before she is the finished article.
“I’m only 22 and time is on my side. Mr first priority is to finish college and we’ll see from there but I would love to get paid for playing football. That is the dream,” she explained.
Amber’s parents Jacqueline (a native of Creeslough) and Shaun Paul were in Tallaght to watch her first international goal while brothers Luke and Kane are talented sportsmen and play GAA with Milford.
“Our parents always wanted us to do well and gave us a wee push every so often whenever we needed one. They were willing to put their own lives on hold for us and they’ve been brilliant,” she said.
Her father, who managed the Donegal Minor team to an All-Ireland semi-final, is the current Termon GAA manager.
“My ambition is to get the Ireland number nine jersey. I don’t want to be sitting in the dug-out. I want to play. It was a special, special feeling to score a goal for Ireland and I’m greedy I want to experience it again and again,” she said.
Amber started playing football with Milford before linking up with Lagan Harps where she won numerous Donegal League titles. Her striking partner at Lagan was Nakita Burke, the current All-Ireland Cross County champion.
“We used to link up well. Nakita was always supremely fit and she’s done very well for herself. I’m delighted,” she said.
While she no longer plays GAA, Amber continues to watch the fortunes of the Donegal senior team with pride.
“Those girls are all my friends. We had some great days together. They were unlucky not to make the National League semi-finals this year but I’m sure they will do well in the Championship,” she said.
“I really couldn’t continue to combine both – and I tried. I’ve taken the decision I have and I’m happy with where I’m at. If we can make it through to the World Cup finals all the effort will have been worthwhile,” she said.
Top of the ambition list, for now, though is to play for Ireland against Norway next week and, ultimately, at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Posted: 1:04 pm June 1, 2018