Dual Star Niamh is Galway's golden Girl

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star Niamh is Galway’s golden girl by Cliona Foley

IF Niamh Fahey wanted to doss off school – which,
of course a high achiever like her never would
– she would surely have the best excuses of any
16-year-old in the country. On Monday she was
back in class in St Paul’s, Oughterard, after
spending the last week in Dublin, training and
playing with the Irish U19 soccer team in their
successful three-game European Championships qualifying
group. And she has a gilt-edged excuse for getting
off homework next weekend: she is playing for
Galway in the TG4 All-Ireland ladies’ senior football
final in Croke Park on Sunday!

an old saying that whatever a woman does she
must do twice as well as a man to be considered
half as good. In sport particularly, young
girls have to be pretty extraordinary to get
the same media attention as their male peers,
but Fahey (16) is understandably attracting
it these days. She has not had a minute to
spare in recent months between her dual sporting
talents and her competitive schedule in the
past three weeks has been particularly hectic.
Galway’s women footballers, for whom she lines
out at centre-forward, drew with reigning
champions Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-finals
on September 11. They then had to go to extra
time in the replay a week later to reach an
historic first senior final. After the replay,
Fahey had to rush straight from Hyde Park
to Dublin to meet up with her international
soccer teammates for another intensive week.
She plays left full back but last Tuesday
scored a screamer of a 30-yard volley in Ireland’s
1-0 victory over Iceland. She also impressed
in their next two matches, a thrilling draw
with table-toppers Switzerland in Belfield
and a 2-0 defeat of Greece in Dalymount, which
put Ireland through to the final 28 and the
next round of qualifiers.
President Geraldine Giles presenting the
2003 U-16 All-Ireland Cup to Niamh

youngest of eight children, Fahey’s first love
is Gaelic football and her family is steeped in
it. Of her six brothers, four have played for
Galway at senior or U21 level and Gary and Richie
are no strangers to the All-Ireland senior stage.

Niamh’s parents Marjorie and Richard admit they
were initially surprised with her interest in
soccer. None of the rest of their children were
big soccer fans but early on, their youngest adopted
Liverpool as ‘her team’ and started playing for
the school. Her selection for Connacht saw her
picked on the Irish squad for the Youth Olympics
last summer in Paris and she has emerged to claim
a starting place with the U19s.

She is not alone amongst her peers. Sunday’s opponents
include Dublin’s Angie McNally who has played
both soccer and basketball for Ireland, while
Galway team-mate Lisa Cohill has also played underage
soccer and run for Ireland. Alongside her on the
Irish U19s is Kacey O’Driscoll, daughter of Kerry
All-Ireland winner Ger and the Kerry women’s team’s
equivalent to ‘The Gooch’.

Fahey’s schedule in recent weeks was only made
possible by the co-operation of the Galway football
management and Irish U19 boss Sue Ronan. “Niamh
has been terribly busy with the soccer lately
but honestly, she’s the kind of girl who never
misses training otherwise,” Galway manager PJ
Fahy (no relation) said. “And what do you do?
Do you try and bully her to decide on one sport
or try and work with her? “When we played Mayo
in the All-Ireland semi-final last year people
thought I was mad to pick her as she was just
15 but she was our trump card” he added.

His biggest problem now, he admits, is trying
to keep the media attention away from her in the
frenetic build-up to Sunday’s All-Ireland; a rare
but nice complaint, for a young female sports

This article was kindly provided by The Irish



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