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NWSL whistleblower Sinead Farrelly will start for Ireland vs. USWNT

Sinead Farrelly is joining the Ireland women's national team for its friendlies against the USWNT. (Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Sinead Farrelly’s “surreal” return to soccer took another twist Friday, as she will start for the Ireland women’s national team in Saturday’s friendly against the USWNT.

Just last week, the 33-year-old midfielder played in her first NWSL match since 2015. She had left the sport after experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of her coach, but she went public with her story in 2021, prompting major investigations into the league.

Farrelly returned this year, joining Gotham FC for the preseason as a non-roster invitee before singing a contract for the 2023 season. She made her debut in the club’s most recent match against OL Reign, and she slipped “seamlessly” into the flow of the game, her teammate Lynn Williams said.

While the match ended in a 2-0 loss, Farrelly made an immediate impact when she entered in the 70th minute, bringing “a lot of control to the midfield,” Williams said on the latest episode of Snacks. And she does the same day in and day out.

“Every day when I see her at training, she’s so technically good that half the time I’m like, ‘Sinead, give me the ball.’ If I’m defending her, I’m like, ‘Just give it to me!’ But I can’t get it off her,” Williams said.

Now Farrelly can show her skills on the international stage, as she joins Ireland for its pair of friendlies against the USWNT, starting with the first at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Ireland is preparing for its first-ever World Cup appearance, and Farrelly is getting the start in just her first camp. Coach Vera Pauw announced the lineup decision Friday, just hours after Farrelly officially joined the roster.

“She has been the standout player, to be honest,” Ireland midfielder Denise O’Sullivan said.

Farrelly’s father is from Ireland, and she spent part of her childhood living there. She maintains dual citizenship, which opened the door for this opportunity.

“Ireland’s always been really interwoven into our life and my family life,” she said Friday. “And so it feels a little surreal, but I feel really honored and proud to be wearing this badge.”

While Farrelly and the Ireland team had been in contact, whether she would be able to join the team came down to the timing of her return, she said.

“I was still trying to figure out if I could do this and my body could do this, and I wanted to try to make a team in the U.S. first and have a solid club,” Farrelly said. “And so I think the timing of getting invited into this last camp to train was exactly how it was supposed to be and perfect for both of us.”

While Farrelly is thrilled by this latest opportunity, she still is giving herself grace as she works her way back into the game.

“The only thing I’ve learned in this journey back to soccer for me is one day at a time, one session at a time,” she said. “I can get really overwhelmed and I can be really negative and critical with myself. And really the most important thing for me is just to show up and try my best and keep a positive attitude. So that’s just what I want to do every day.”