Two players in particular stood out at Arima’s Larry Gomes Stadium during Thursday’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup group-stage clash between the Republic of Ireland and Canada. They may fulfil the same role on the pitch, share the same age and demonstrate the same passion for the game, but the colours of their jerseys are different. The players concerned are the Irish and Canadian goalkeepers, Grace Moloney and Sabrina D’Angelo respectively.
But the comparisons do not end there. The youthful keepers also have one more thing in common, an advantage that very few of the players participating at Trinidad and Tobago 2010 can claim; that their parents have made the long journey to the Caribbean nation to be by their side, offering their offspring much-needed support. And while both couples feel a mixture of pride and happiness at their daughters’ achievements, following their ‘young ones’ from the stands is not always an easy experience. “It’s so stressful! It’s enough to make you feel unwell,” states D’Angelo’s mother, Bonnie, still able to smile despite just witnessing her team lose the Group D match.
It could be argued that, based on her performance, D’Angelo junior certainly has nothing to reproach herself about. After securing a clean sheet in Canada’s opening 1-0 win over Ghana, she was close to producing a carbon copy display against the Irish, pulling off several top-class saves before finally succumbing to Siobahn Killeen’s impressive 76th minute winner.
Be that as it may, the young Canucks’ custodian is her own harshest critic, saying, “Ireland’s desire to win was stronger than ours. The goal was my fault – I wish I could have done better to help out my team-mates.”
Showing maturity and grace beyond her years, she is also not slow to praise her opposite number. “She played very well, making the right saves at the right moments,” she points out.
On that point at least, it is difficult to contradict the Canadian. The reflex saves that Grace Moloney produced to twice deny Haisha Cantave in the first half were both crucial and remarkable. As for the one-on-one with Alexandra Courtnall from which she emerged victorious in the 84th minute, it as good as sealed an important three points for her team, keeping alive Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the quarter-finals in the process.
“I was never one for running about too much – that’s the real reason I ended up a goalie,” joked Moloney post-match, when asked about her goalkeeping vocation.
To the ends of the earth
Whether there is some truth to her statement, or whether it all stems from the high esteem in which she holds Ireland men’s keeper Shay Given, there can be no doubt that it was an inspired choice. Her parents, meanwhile, are quick to point out that they played no part in her decision.
“We can’t take any credit for it. We try to support and encourage her as best we can, and we make sure that she is able to live her dream by helping her out wherever possible. What really counts is for her to be happy,” says father Bill Moloney. His wife Marina chimes in: “She doesn’t need us to motivate her!”
That may well be the case, but both players agree that the presence of their parents has given them an enormous confidence boost. “It’s fantastic to know that they’re here – their support is very important. They’ve always been there for me,” explains Moloney. D’Angelo feels no different: “They believe in me and they enable me to give my best. That’s the most important thing.”
“Money and time weren’t an issue – we just knew we had to be there, that’s all there is to it,” says Marina Moloney. The final word goes to D’Angelo’s father Gerry: “How many times in your life do you get the chance to play at a World Cup? It took us no time at all to decide. We booked our tickets straight away. We’d follow her to the ends of the earth.”