Amber Barrett: "You'll never improve unless you're being pushed to your limits."

Amber Barrett: "You'll never improve unless you're being pushed to your limits."
Neasa Kennedy
Neasa Kennedy

Amber Barrett shot to the front pages of the media following her heroic and poignant goal against Scotland, securing her side's place at this year's 2023 FIFA World Cup.

Amber has always been surrounded by sport. Her brothers play gaelic football for club and Donegal and her parents are immersed in sport. The Donegal native began playing soccer with Milford boys team.

"It started out in the back garden, playing with my older brother, my younger brother and my cousins. We all used to meet up in the evening after school and play."

"I was one of the few girls who played against the boys and joined in with the boys."

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The soccer star is at no risk of getting too big for her boots and credits her family support system for getting her to where she is in her career today. "I'm very lucky that I have two brothers who are very, very quick to humble me any opportunity that they get. And my mother's never too far behind, and then Dad always kind of chirps in then with the constructive criticism. It's good to have that as well, because you always want to push yourself and you always want to be better."

"Having the two boys very involved in Gaelic football as well, extremely competitive, and for them to have their mindset, I think the three of us all compliment each other in that way. We want to work hard and do as much as we can."

Barrett's sporting talents transcended soccer, with the Milford athlete also representing her county Donegal in football, and her renowned speed serving her well in athletics which lead her to being torn between the three growing up. She earnestly admits that choosing soccer was a difficult decision, but ultimately one that paid off handsomely.

"I think more so difficult because I was involved with Donegal at a time when there had been a lot of improvements and developments made. There was definitely a group of players there that were very capable of winning Ulster titles and competing for the All-Ireland and they have done exactly that."

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"It wasn't an easy decision in the sense of stepping away from something I had worked very, very hard to get into. But I think what's happened since compliments my decision as difficult as it was at the time."

At 27-years-old, going to a World Cup is a dream come true and something Amber absolutely does not take for granted.

"If you were to tell me which one would be first I would have always said it would have been European Championships."

 "It's something that regardless of your age, 27, if you're 35, if you're 19, it's something that you're never guaranteed might happen again."

It can't be denied how incredibly fitting and special it was that Amber Barrett, a proud Donegal woman, scored one of the most important and historic goals in Irish soccer history, securing her sides qualification.

Following the devastating and tragic news from Creeslough in Donegal just days before this crucial game, Barrett emotionally honoured those who lost their lives.

"What happened after the goal was completely just like a natural reaction, which is quite odd and ironic thing to say because anybody that knows me when I score I usually have a very extravagant celebration because goals scoring is something I love to do."

"Realising it's a black armband on my on my left arm and the minute's silence before the game, all those moments really just never left my mind. As I was coming onto to the field, one of our staff members said to me 'Do it for Donegal'."

"I think for me personally, it was what happened afterwards. When Katie [McCabe] came to the corner and saw me, her reaction, she even took a moment and pointed. I think that sums up our team perfectly. It's never just about us. There's so many more important things in life and there's so many things that are bigger than football and bigger than the team."

Following the goal that has etched her name into the history books, there was much discussion about a conversation she had with Vera Pauw, with Vera telling Her Sport back in October that  "She had said to me during the week 'Vera if you will put me on, I will make that goal'".

Reflecting, Barrett said: "It's interesting as well because you never think that those conversation would have that long term effect afterwards. It was just one of those things where I came into the camp and we were meeting on the Tuesday and I was playing on the Saturday and had been carrying a small injury going into the match. And in the match I pulled up and had to come off very, very early on in the game"

"I had a very good talk with the physio who said look, you just need a couple of days and will be okay for the game. But again, it's a competitive environment. I didn't know, whether she'd give me those couple of days to get right or did she need everybody at 100% from day one"

"I always believe I will score when I play. She said, Well, if you play on Tuesday that's it [scoring]. And I said, Yeah, of course, that's my plan. So that's how the conversation went."

Barrett is undoubtedly a character in the squad, and freshly returned from training camp in Marbella she says everyone enjoyed being reunited with time for some good craic and pranks (particularly towards new faces courtesy of Niamh Fahey!) but they are all more focused and determined than ever.

"The only thing we didn't get was the Marbella weather we were promised." she laughs. "It was a brilliant opportunity to get everybody back together and it just got turned the focus again on the World Cup."

The squad played behind-closed-doors games against Germany and China and it has recently been announced they will play World Number One's USA next month in two challenge games.

"Vera always manages to get good opposition for us because she likes to play against high ranked teams. I think China are ranked 14th in the world. To get a draw against them and probably, arguably, we could have won the game as well when the goal was ruled out."

On facing a team of USA's calibre Barrett said; "You never think you're going to be playing these types of teams because  they're so world renowned for being one of the best teams in the history of women's soccer."

"We know that it's going to be difficult and it's going to be a really, really tough task. But you'll never improve unless you're being pushed to your limits."

Before they jet-off, Irish fans will get the opportunity to send the squad off down under with two games pencilled in at Tallaght Stadium, against France and Zambia which are sure to sell out instantly.

The demand for tickets has never been so high for this team, with FIFA recently moving Ireland's opener against hosts Australia from Sydney Football Stadium (capacity of 42,500) to Stadium Australia (capacity of 83,500) due to phenomenal demand. Even as a player, Barrett struggles to contextualise this.

"To be honest with you, it's only when I speak to my friends in Australia who are actually just telling me about how exciting it is over there that they're already like, 'Amber, there's build up at home, but the build up here, for that game specifically is just crazy."

"I think it's 83,500 people, you know like that's just a number you never really think you're playing in front of, especially at a World Cup, especially one against the hosts. And you know what? What an unbelievable opportunity. And wow, I think it's something that we will really have to enjoy but also we want to go there and we want to be a thorn in their side too."

Barrett is as humble as it comes. She is extremely down-to-earth and grateful for the support she and her team have received from the Irish public as well as the FAI, which did not come without it's challenges.

"The support has been years coming and every year the increase in the budget allows us more camps to allow more opposition, more games, more challenges and you know bringing in extra players for training camps and it really does pay off."

"I think from my own personal experience, it's been nothing but positive. It's something that we don't just want to rest on our laurels now and say 'thanks for that'. We want to build on it and keep pushing and seeing how far we can take things as well."

Currently playing with Turbine Potsdam who had a disappointing season, Barrett is relishing playing for the side and enjoying her time in Germany immensely.

"I really do love it. Being from Donegal and having no public transport, to going to being completely inundated with public transport over here! It's a completely different way of living in some aspects and I really, really enjoy the German people. You know, it takes a few Irish people to loosen them up a wee bit, but sure they take it and it is a really good country." she laughs before adding; "I love their professionalism of things over here as well."

Although her team have had a turbulent season, Barrett still has a positive outlook that is a great lesson to others, especially younger girls who admire her so greatly.

"We're struggling at the minute, we're at the bottom of the league, but every day the last thing our manager says to us is have fun and enjoy it."

"You know, regardless of what age you are, you have to have fun and you have to enjoy it. And when you do both, usually you'll take much more out of it, and that's when you start to make little improvements."

Amber Barrett spoke to Her Sport for the launch of her brand partnership with Aya.

AYA, the leading Irish vitamin and supplement brand for all the family is delighted to announce a Brand Partnership with Irish International football player Amber Barrett for 2023. Amber who is a Donegal native, made history earlier this year as she scored the winning goal to get the Irish women’s football team into the world cup for the first time. They will take their place among the nations of the earth in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

As a professional athlete at the top of her game, Amber enjoys a busy lifestyle and alongside a balanced and varied diet, she takes AYA vitamins and supplements to help support her immunity and give her the energy he needs to perform both on and off the pitch.

Amber’s Brand Partnership work with AYA will see her supporting some exciting new product launches, point of sale activation, creating social media content to promote the brand, and attending events throughout the year.

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