JOE meets Republic of Ireland and Arsenal women's goalkeeper Emma Byrne
JOE caught up with Emma Byrne the Arsenal and Republic of Ireland senior women's goalkeeper.
JOE – Emma Byrne, Republic of Ireland senior women’s goalkeeper, Arsenal player and all round superstar, it’s good to have you.
Emma – Aw thank you, already my best friend!
JOE – Haha, you’re very welcome. I have to start off with the match last Saturday against Germany and I know it was a heart-breaking 3-2 defeat with the late goal, but overall, you must be proud of the players and the performance you put in. Prior to that match, Germany had played five games, conceded none and scored forty.
Emma – Well now that the dust has settled, we can look back and say that we are proud of the performance. I suppose if you had asked us before the game if we’d be happy with a narrow 3-2 defeat, we probably would have grabbed it with both hands. It was difficult to take straight after the game as we felt we deserved something from the match, but it wasn’t meant to be and football is a cruel game like that, we just had no luck on the day.
JOE – The winning goal so late in the game must be causing you nightmares.
Emma – I haven’t slept since! Can you tell?! Absolute nightmare.
JOE – To me it looked like a fluke. It looked like she was trying to cross the ball, sending a hopeful high ball into the box and the wind caught it and just took it over your head.
Emma – When I saw the ball come off her boot, I took a step forward because this is mine, I need to come and take these balls, take the pressure off the girls and literally a second later, I swore under my breath and thought ‘No, this can’t be happening, please no!’. The wind, as you said, just took it (pic below)and I knew it was going in.
JOE – Maybe if the match hadn’t been played out in Tallaght where it’s very exposed the wind wouldn’t have been such a factor.
Emma – Yeah, it is very windy out there. We had the wind in the first half and I think we used it well to our advantage.
JOE – Those throw ins from Megan Campbell were such a weapon.
Emma – Unbelievable.
JOE – They were Delap-esque.
Emma – I actually think they are way better. I’ve watched Delap take his throws and trying to compare them with Megan’s who has been throwing the ball like that since she was 15. It comes in flatter and she can hit the back post with it. As a goalkeeper you would hate to be facing them because you can’t come and take them. You don’t even want to punch because there are so many bodies in front of you. It’s mad. The tactics should be to try and get a throw in!
JOE – You’re still second place in the group to qualify for the finals in Canada in 2015. Do you still harbour hopes to secure runners-up, thereby securing a play-off spot?
Emma – Yeah, definitely. It’s really disappointing to think of the result out in Croatia, where we drew. We hope that doesn’t come back to bite us. I suppose it was almost like getting a point against Germany because of the goal difference and it might come down to that at the end of the group. It was a great result when you actually look back, but you know, Russia is the big game. We need to beat them home and away and that is what we are focused on. To be honest, at the start of the campaign, everyone knew Germany would top the group so we were always going for second spot. Russia were our target, Croatia was a bit of a blip, but we can retrieve that if we win the rest of our games.
JOE – Germany hammered Croatia 8-0??
Emma – Yeah, and they beat Russia 9-0!
JOE – Which puts your 3-2 defeat into even better perspective!
Emma – Yeah, but we can’t think like that because the Russians could come out one day and be absolutely awful and the next day they are brilliant. That’s the kind of team they are. We’re playing Russia in three weeks and that’s a must-win for us.
JOE – Watched the highlights of the game and it was great to see such a big crowd there supporting you. I’m hoping now, despite the narrow defeat to Germany, that many more will come out and support you in the remaining games. People are starting to realise that the Irish women’s team are good, they have a chance, they are contenders.
Emma – Exactly. It’s a young team, most of the girls are in the 23 and 24 age bracket and they will only get better. I’m the only oul wan on the team!
JOE – (laughs) Are you like a motherly figure to the younger girls?
Emma – Definitely not, I’m probably more immature than any of them! I think the match against Germany, although a loss will be a huge help to them. I hear some of them have watched it back and it was supposed to have been a great game to watch. I can’t watch it though, I refuse to. One of my best friends has never seen me play. She came along to the match last Saturday and had a brilliant time. She said she is definitely coming back again so it’s nice to hear that.
JOE – And rightly so. Okay, Emma just want to talk to you about that recent controversy in the press about the statement you made about the FAI and how you criticised them. The Irish manager, Sue Ronan subsequently came out in the press to criticise the comments you made, particularly the timing of them. How are things now with you and Sue? Have you had a chat?
Emma – We are fine. We had a meeting. We hadn’t spoken prior to her making the comments, so she hadn’t heard my side of the story. The article wasn’t entirely accurate, my words were a little bit twisted and her main concern was about my future and was I walking away from the team. Obviously, I’m not going to do that. It’s a storm in a teacup. You know, I am 34 and eventually I will have to retire, but she knows that words can get mixed up, but we are fine. She also knows that I know nothing about John Delaney, nothing about Aviva, she just knows that wasn’t my angle. She also knows me as a person and I’m not that type of person. People called me when the article when it came out saying I had to see it! It didn’t bother me though as I knew we hadn’t had that conversation.
JOE – When I read the initial article I could see where you were coming from when your daily allowance was removed, as was all the allowances for all the teams except for the senior men’s team, which seems strange because they are the ones who need it least!
Emma – Yeah, that’s what my mam says too!
JOE – Obviously you have to think of your own future, you’re a married woman now, you’re getting offers to coach so it must be hard trying to commit to the Irish cause when you know you could be earning money by coaching. That must be frustrating. Do you have a time in your mind where you think that’s when you hang up the boots?
Emma – Not really. I suppose I will just listen to my body and at the moment I feel good. My knees wouldn’t be great, but we’re doing lots of work on injury prevention and stuff like that and I feel really good. If you ask me next week however, I might have a bad back and I could be thinking I don’t know how long I can last. My life is changing a bit though and I am becoming a full-time student soon.
JOE – Really? What will you be studying?
Emma – Journalism.
JOE – Well this is probably not how to do an interview!
Emma – Hahahaha! But this is how I’d like to be, I’m very rarely serious! So yeah, my whole life is changing and I can’t tell you what will happen in September because I’ve never been a full-time student. It’s been organised through the PFA which is cool as it will allow me to still train as it will be revolved around the football. I want to stay playing for as long as I can. I don’t want to be one of those oul ones still hanging on, but I’m still young as far as I’m concerned. My performance in the game against Germany shook me a bit.
JOE – In what way?
Emma – I felt I should have saved the penalty, despite people saying it was a great effort to save it (pic below). I’m very critical of myself as a goalkeeper. The third goal, the winning goal too, it’s rare for me to get caught out like that because I’m so tall. So you know I need to work on that and I haven’t trained since that game and I need a session to clear my head. That’s how I get games out of my system. I train hard. It is a bit of therapy, I convince myself I am a good keeper.
JOE – Take it from us Emma, you are the best we have got, you are a great keeper! We need you.
Emma – (laughs), oh I don’t know….
JOE – Just on that Emma, do you see up and coming keepers and think, yeah, they have what it takes?
Emma – Eh…yeah, I guess there are different styles of goalkeepers out there. It’s hard though as there aren’t as many as tall as me which is a huge thing in women’s football. I know Shay Given wasn’t the tallest, in fact I’m probably taller, but he’s got a fantastic spring and women tend not to have that, the agility. Women have to work on that. The goalkeepers in waiting for my position are not as tall as me so straight away that’s a disadvantage for them. If they are not as big, they have to be really good agility-wise. They have to work very hard on that, but because they are not full-time it’s very hard to give it the time it needs. We do have a young Canadian keeper with a Dublin dad who is in the squad and has good agility, but again she’s in university and cannot commit full-time.
JOE – Okay, so no danger of Canada calling her up for the finals in their country next year?
Emma – I hope not! I feel that in Ireland, we should be amongst the best in the world in the goalkeeping position with the heritage we have from our national sports and it’s a bit of a shame that we are not. It is something I would like to address. I’ve got my coaching badges and I’d love to set up a goalkeeping academy here in Ireland someday. I just think it’s the one position we should be excelling at.
JOE – I did a little bit of a background check on you before this interview.
Emma – That feels weird!
JOE – Sso yeah, that fellah you were with in that nightclub…..hahaha, only messing!
Emma – Oh Jesus! (laughs), you had me worred there!
JOE – Sorry, couldn’t resist! In all seriousness though, you won the Champions League (pic below) with Arsenal! What was that like? It must have been amazing.
Emma – It was without a doubt the pinnacle, the highlight of my career. It was just surreal and even now talking about it, even though we’ve been in it every year since, I know that it’s never going to happen again.
JOE – Why is that?
Emma – The standard has got so high and that team we had when we won it was a once in a lifetime team, a freak if you will. They were the golden generation and I just can’t see it happening again any time soon. We’ve never even come close to it since, You have Liverpool and Manchester City who may build and grow, but I just can’t see it happening. It’s kind of nice actually. Maybe I’m hoping it won’t be repeated for my own selfish reasons (laughs).
JOE – Emma Byrne, it has been a genuine joy to speak to you today. Thanks very much for talking to us and we wish you well with the rest of the qualifying with Ireland and the rest of the season with Arsenal.
Emma – It was a pleasure, lovely to meet you.
Irish international football players Robbie Brady and Emma Byrne were on hand today to announce details of the Doritos Penalty Shootout competition. Snack-loving teams of mates across Ireland and the UK are being given the extraordinary opportunity to compete for the chance to take a penalty against the England No.1 goalkeeper Joe Hart. The winning team that scores the most goals will also receive the ‘Ultimate Mates Football Trip’, offering the opportunity to travel by private jet to the football capitals of Europe this summer! It’s a dream trip to Madrid, Munich and Milan, with luxury hotels all the way. To enter, entrants need to be over 18 and register at Doritos.co.uk by 18th April, uploading a video of them and their mates showing off their top football skills and tricks on the pitch!