Sinead Farrelly made her international debut for Ireland on Saturday, playing 60 minutes in a friendly against the USWNT.
It marked the latest chapter in Farrelly’s impressive comeback after she was essentially focused into an early retirement in 2016.
“I am so overwhelmed,” the 33-year-old Farrelly told the Athletic after the friendly in Austin, Texas, which Ireland lost 0-2. “Very happy, excited — obviously we wanted to win — but I am just really proud of the team. I am also very tired.”
Members of the USWNT also expressed their excitement at seeing Farrelly compete in Saturday’s match, which was played in front of a sellout crowd of 20,593 fans.
“It was so good to see her on the field,” said U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski, who coached Farrelly when she was a member of the NWSL’s FC Kansas City in 2013.
“Obviously it’s a good opportunity for her to earn a spot for a team that will compete in the World Cup. But also just to see her back on the field because we know she’s a tremendous player. She’s really skillful, total footballer. So when I saw her after the game, I could see that joy in her eyes too.”
USWNT star forward Alex Morgan, who was teammates with Farrelly on the Portland Thorns and helped support her in the process of telling her story, was also ecstatic to play against her.
“She’s the Sinead I remember playing with on the Thorns,” Morgan told the Athletic. “I’m just so impressed with her.”
In September 2021, Farrelly went public with her experience of sexual abuse at the hands of former Thorns coach Paul Riley in a story published by the Athletic.
The allegations made by Farrelly and by her former Thorns teammate Mana Shim prompted the firing of Riley by the North Carolina Courage and the opening of wider abuse investigations by the NWSL and its players association as well as U.S. Soccer.
Farrelly, who retired from soccer in 2016, only resumed training in July 2022. She joined the NWSL’s Gotham FC as a non-roster invitee for preseason in February before signing a contract for the 2023 season. She played in her first NWSL game in nearly eight years last weekend.
While Farrelly’s NWSL comeback was impressive on its own, her debut for Ireland — which was announced just this week — is an even more stunning development.
Farrelly has dual U.S.-Irish citizenship. Her father is from Ireland and she spent part of her childhood there.
“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.”
Still, she had to receive official approval from FIFA to compete for Ireland, as she previously represented the United States in international competition at the youth level.
Ireland will make its first ever appearance at the Women’s World Cup at this summer’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand, but Farrelly isn’t planning that far ahead — yet.
“I don’t want to lose sight of why I came back to play,” she said Saturday when asked whether she wanted to compete for a World Cup roster spot. “It was just to have the game back in my life, and feel that joy and passion again, and I don’t want to attach (myself) to any outcomes.”