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Denise O’Sullivan interview: Leadership, World Cup hopes and her growing profile

denise o'sullivan interview

Denise O’Sullivan interview.

“These are two of my favourite people,” says Tony O’Donoghue, as the RTE studio hands over to the pitchside reporter at a cold Hampden Park in Glasgow.

While viewers back home wait to hear the thoughts of Katie McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan, the pair have succumbed to fits of laughter, looking into each other’s eyes for reassurance that what they had just achieved was, in fact, real.

“Book your tickets!” is captain McCabe’s most notable soundbite, urging the Irish public to join the team in Australia at the World Cup they’ve just qualified for.

“We’re BUZZING!” is the simple message from O’Sullivan, on a night in which the Cork native played the pass for Amber Barrett to find the net, and secure a historic 1-0 over Scotland.

Denise O’Sullivan reflects on a historic night in Glasgow.

While Vera Pauw’s players will be forgiven for finding words hard to come by on that emotionally-charged evening last October, O’Sullivan had come back down to earth enough to offer some cool reflection, when Pundit Arena caught up with her earlier this week.

“Honestly, that night will go down the history books,” she told us. “It was just the best night of my career. I think the squad over the years have just worked so hard to get to that moment and we’ve had our ups and downs.

“I think not getting to the Euros was the most devastating moment in my career. And then that high of getting to a World Cup, it was just absolutely phenomenal.

“And to have people there, like Olivia O’Toole watching the game, Emma Byrne was there, Stephanie Roche, they’re all the girls who really worked hard before us to get to this position, and to see them there in the crowd that night was very emotional.

“To have a lot of Irish fans there as well and just get into a World Cup, it was a dream of mine since I was a kid, so for it to actually come alive that night, it was phenomenal.”

EA Sports announcement.

Our conversation comes during a week in which EA Sports announced new partnerships with the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), where O’Sullivan plies her trade with North Carolina Courage, and the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association (NWSLPA).

Developments such as these contribute to the journey that female footballers are on, towards having an equal profile to that of their male counterparts.

This is very much welcomed by O’Sullivan, and she has seen for herself how the interest has exploded in Ireland, thanks to the success of the Girls in Green.

“Yeah, it’s massive, I think to be introduced to such a huge platform as a player and as a club, I think it’s phenomenal,” she says of the EA Sports announcement. “I think it’s great exposure for the Courage, it’s great exposure for the league. I think it’s really great, and I’m very excited to be part of that.

“There’s a lot of interest now and it’s really great to see from Ireland, a lot more people are interested. When I go home, I get stopped in the street, stopped for photos, which would never happen years ago, people wouldn’t know who I am.

“Now, there’s people I don’t know contacting me through social media just to say how proud they are of the team. It’s really massive.

“I think there’s a lot more young girls and boys now that are starting to play football, that recognise that they have people to look up to. I think the big takeaway for me is to keep inspiring those young kids. I think that’s massive.”

Denise O’Sullivan on leadership.

Throughout the history of football, successful teams have been characterised by having multiple leaders to call on when the going gets tough.

Ireland are blessed in that department with the likes of McCabe, Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell and Aine O’Gorman, to name just a few.

Having been handed the captain’s armband for her club ahead of the upcoming NWSL season, the 29-year-old O’Sullivan is also among that cohort, but how does the skilful midfielder see herself when it comes to rallying the troops?

“I think I lead from the back, kind of,” she offers. “I think I’m not a leader that will give you speeches and stuff like that. I think when I need to talk, that’s the time I’ll talk, and if I don’t, then I’ll sit back and I’ll just observe and be myself.

“But for me, it’s just about showing up every day, bringing the intensity to train and keeping the standards high, holding people accountable. But first of all, holding myself accountable. I’d say that’s the kind of leader I am. I don’t really need the recognition, don’t need the awards and stuff like that.

“Katie got named captain at 21 years old. I think it’s not just Katie, but there’s other massive leaders like Louise Quinn, Diane, Aine, Niamh Fahey, that have really brought the squad together.”

Denise O’Sullivan: “It’s most important to be a good person.”

With an overall FIFA 23 rating 80, O’Sullivan is joint-third among her Courage teammates, alongside Brazilian forward Kerolin, and behind Casey Murphy (83) and Emily Fox (81).

For many observers, this is reflected in O’Sullivan being the most naturally-gifted player in the Ireland squad, but that wouldn’t be an assessment that the modest playmaker is entirely comfortable with.

“I wouldn’t look at myself as that,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of really phenomenal players on the team and we all bring something different.

“I wouldn’t say I’m the most skilled, but I bring what I can, and the most important thing is to be a good person and just work hard. I think that’s really important. And other than that, what I bring is a bonus.”

Ireland v Slovakia


Women’s World Cup.

As Ireland embark on a first-ever Women’s World Cup finals, each member of the squad is entering into uncharted territory in terms of preparation for a major tournament.

Not only do they need to arrive Down Under in peak physical condition, but there’s also prospect of playing in front of 80,000 people at a packed Stadium Australia, while ensuring that no loved ones are left behind when it comes to being in attendance.

“I have a lot of people texting me for tickets,” Denise says.”I’m happy that we moved to that 80,000 capacity Sydney stadium now, because more people are able to go to the game.

“But for me, my approach is kind of the same. I am very professional anyway in the way I look after my body and I’ll continue to do that and I think just staying fit here with the Courage, I think that’s important.

“I have a role and a responsibility, but when I go into national team, it’s full focus on them and I’ll approach the World Cup the same as I usually do, because that’s how I get the best out of myself.”

Pre-season training.

Denise logs off in order to return to pre-season training with her NC Courage teammates at their location in Mexico.

For now, the focus is on kicking off the season with a win at home to Kansas City Current on March 25th, but Irish fans can rest assured that she will be ready to face Australia on July 20th.

Should the World Cup campaign go well, viewers at home can look forward to more pitchside gems from O’Sullivan and her teammates.

Starting March 15th across all platforms, all 12 NWSL teams will be present within Kick Off, Tournament Mode, Head to Head season / Co-op Seasons and Online Friendlies. Also available in EA SPORTS™ FIFA 23 will be four NWSL stadiums, along with authentic kits, starheads, trophies and celebrations.

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