Monica McGuirk goes from what could have been in football to direct Meath in a storybook to the All-Ireland final
EIGHT years later, the internet clip of this wonderful Stephanie Roche goal for Peamount United against Wexford Youths has been watched over a million times.
But Meath’s Monica McGuirk reckons she’s had the best view of the day as a Peamount goalkeeper, directly in line with the strike.
Roche eventually came in second behind Colombian superstar James Rodriguez for the overall FIFA Goal of the Year award, but pushed the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie to third place.
Considering how many times the target has been seen, McGuirk jokes that she’s just lucky she wasn’t the target.
McGuirk said: “Fortunately I was at the other end of the field! In fact, I had a magnificent view of it.
Free Bets Republic of Ireland vs Azerbaijan: Get € 50 FREE Bets on World Cup Qualifiers with BoyleSports
“It was very skillful what she did, a few strokes and then a shiny finish. It was also his first goal of the season that year.
“We were about a month into the season and it was on the Wexford Youths field, an away game.
“I played with Steph for a few years and that goal that day put her on the map.”
SPECIAL BET – THE BEST FREE BETS ON KATIE TAYLOR’S LIGHTWEIGHT SHOWDOWN
Everyone wanted a piece of Roche after that strike and she ended up playing for clubs in France, USA, England and Italy.
Back home, McGuirk dreamed of just playing for Ireland and getting international recognition.
She came close as a regular in the League of Ireland and made it to the 2014 FAI Cup Final with UCD Waves.
But despite a number of Irish tries, that never happened and she ended up integrating it.
Stopper Duleek / Bellewstown said: “I was playing in Dublin and living in Duleek. There were several factors that really put me off playing football. So I made the decision when I was about 26 or 27 to just say, “Look, it’s time to clear this up.”
“My ultimate ambition was to try to make the Irish national team and unfortunately I had many tries but didn’t have the strength to say ‘We think you are good enough’ or whatever.
“I called it a day and I was happy to call it a day. I was ready to say, ‘That’s enough for me now.’
“I hadn’t really decided to go play Gaelic, I just decided to rest and see what happens. I think Eamonn Murray, Meath’s manager, had the word and within a week he called me: ‘Come back to the Meath team’.
WHAT COULD BE
McGuirk looks back on an enjoyable, if not entirely fulfilling, footballing career.
She said: “I thought when I went to play in the National League for Peamount and UCD that I was playing with the best, like Stephanie, Áine O’Gorman, Ciara Grant, all these great players.
“I was mixed with the best, but when it came to the final straw in terms of getting to the national team, you were told you weren’t good enough.
“It was a setback in itself because you have goals at the end of the day and I wasn’t hitting them. From a training standpoint, I felt like I was probably not being pushed as much as I should have been.
“I had goalie coaches, don’t get me wrong, but I felt like my mind and body just weren’t there. And I said, ‘Look, it’s time to stop everything. Enough is enough’. I didn’t like him either. When you don’t like something, you’re not going to play well. That’s kind of how I ended up here.
Maybe it was meant to be because she’s on the cusp of something really special now.
RISE OF THE ROYALS
Although Meath won’t dethrone Dublin tomorrow, it was a decisive season for the first senior finalists.
McGuirk said, “It was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my career. To say this will be my fourth time playing huge games at Croke Park in 12 months is amazing.
“When you play soccer you dream of playing Aviva and I’m happy to say I played there but it doesn’t compare to how good it is to play at Croke Park.”
McGuirk now sees herself as more than just a sniper, even though she is one of the best at it.
She said: “Years ago you were told, ‘Save what you can and kick the ball wide and far, don’t even try to play it from the back.’ Kick it for as long as you can and away from the opposition, that’s what I was told growing up.
“Since coming back with Meath, in just the last four or five years, I’ve become more of an additional defender, an additional player on the pitch.
“You would have seen against Cork on the last day that we had a lot more possession of the ball, so I would have been a lot more involved in the baseline using myself as a back pass player. No, he didn’t. It’s not just about stopping shots, it’s about restarts, kick-outs, communication, all that sort of thing.
Dublin has named a talented forward line, from Hannah Tyrrell to Carla Rowe to Sinéad Aherne. More than enough to keep McGuirk alert.
But she insisted, “I don’t fear any player on any county team. You want to play against Hannah Tyrrell and Carla Rowe, you want to stop their shots.
“You want to face Aimee Mackin, even our own Vikki Wall in training, or Emma Duggan.
“I’m like ‘Vikki, you take a shot, Duggie, take a shot’.
“When you stop their shots you know you are doing something right. “