Like many relationships these days, Saoirse Noonan’s connection to the Durham women’s team began on social media and she is confident injuries will not cushion the line.
The 23-year-old Cork native was set for her FA Women’s Cup debut against Blackburn Rovers only for disaster to strike the training ground 48 hours beforehand.
“It was probably the worst time for an injury to happen,” Noonan said of his turbulent January. “I had just signed my first professional contract which did not take off.
“Ireland had the Pinatar friendly tournament coming up. It would have a good chance of getting your foot in the door to show manager Vera Pauw what you are capable of on the international stage. Other players had plenty of minutes in those three games.
“It was definitely not the right time for this to happen, but that’s life and sport. I want to start playing again and I’m almost there. When she recovers from her knee injury, this will be her former club Shelbourne – rather than Durham – for whom she plays first.
Her recovery schedule put her back in top form towards the end of March, leaving just four weeks until Durham’s final game of the English Championship on May 1.
Noonan’s reverse trip from England to Ireland seems an unorthodox arrangement, but the summer season on home soil offers the chance to get his mojo back.
“It was only a six-month contract with Durham anyway and I’m still their player – on loan at Shels,” she explained. “Once I got the result of the analysis, it was agreed between Durham and I was not obliged to come back for the last four games when I could have a whole summer of football here.
“I’ll be more or less a free agent again this summer, but I think I’ll probably go back to Durham. They have been very good to me, thanks to their help with the injury. In my head, I want to go there because it’s a springboard.
“Who doesn’t want to go there to help them get promoted to the Super League? And it’s a good springboard, not too much of a jump.
It won’t be this season that Durham realize their ambition, as Liverpool – with Noonan’s international teammates Niamh Fahey, Leanne Kiernan and Megan Campbell on the rise – are 11 points clear of them at the top with six games to go.
The former double star first learned of Durham’s interest through her Twitter posts – once she had time to read them. Although represented by Quorum Sport – the Irish agency with Dara O’Shea and Zack Elbouzedi – the first contact was made directly. “Durham messaged me on Twitter a very long time ago and I never even looked at my messages,” the 22-year-old explained.
“When I finally saw him, they asked if I would be interested in speaking to their general manager. They wanted me to take a trial, but that was in the middle of last season and college exams.
“We just kept in touch, then I went in January. My Shelbourne and Ireland team-mate Jess Ziu is with the same agent and has visited a few clubs on trial.
“Durham seemed like a good choice and having an Irish player, Naoisha McAloon, at the club definitely helped me. Durham were a competitive Championship side who finished two seasons ago. Promotion is the target next season.
Getting fit and defending a title is the immediate goal. “Everyone knew I was doing rehab, but the context didn’t,” she explained of her second coming to Shels. “Those were my terms. Even when I phoned Shels manager Noel King to come back, he said ‘what?’ It was weird. I was back to square one as a such but the Shels are a top team and I was glad they wanted me back.
“I was able to do the warm-up in training on Monday evening. Having no reaction was a good sign and it’s just going through the phases, so hopefully I’ll be back to full training in the next two weeks or so.
“Then it’s about playing and building minutes. I can’t give an exact date but I’m on the right track.