Payne living the dream


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Payne living the dream Payne living the dream

By Mike Rafferty

IN normal family life, brothers often get blamed by their sisters for making things difficult, but in the case of Conor Payne it is different as he is the man responsible for setting Heather on the path to international soccer stardom.

For Australia-bound Heather Payne, it all started as a seven or eight-year old and from then until now, sport has always been to the forefront of her mind.

Speaking to Tribune Sport this week, the Creagh native from outside Ballinasloe, remembers how it all started and how her dreams have come true as she prepares for the Women’s World Cup Down Under.

“I remember Conor was training with the boys under Tony Coyne at U10 level every Sunday morning and I just followed him there and copied him. We continued to play competitively in the Athlone District Schoolboy League until I was 14 and thereafter I had to switch to a girls team and I joined Salthill Devon and we were very successful.

“We won two national titles with the club and I remember beating Peamount United in Tolka Park in one of those and it is a game embeddded in my brain. I was also on the Galway League team that won the Gaynor Cup in 2016 and where the likes of Sadhbh Doyle, Aoife Lynagh and Lucia Lomboto were amongst my team mates.”

“Thankfully during that spell, I represented Ireland at under age from U-15 to U-19 level and after leaving Devon I joined Peamount United in the Women’s National League. After two seasons there I wanted to try England and played for a season for Bristol City. After that I took the decision to look after my education and I got a scholarship to Florida State University from where I have just graduated after four years with a degree in Dietitics.”

“With that part of my life completed it is just the World Cup that is in the focus now and since I have come home I can really feel the interest and the buzz that is being created. Everywhere we go the support is massive with autograph and photo requests and it is great to see that interest that kids have in the game and it reminds me of myself when I was their age.

“Of course, all the players were anxious early last week as we were waiting for Vera (Pauw) to announce the squad. There were mixed emotions as those selected were delighted – happy to have made the 23 chosen, while there was also huge disappointment for those who didn’t make it. Obviously I was thrilled to make it and can settle down a bit now”.

Grouped with Sweden and Finland among others in the qualifying stages, Ireland were not ranked in the top two and this was the challenge that lifted all the girls in the squad as the qualification process developed. Asked about any special moments during this time, Heather had great memories of two games in particular.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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