IN Galway respect for the Fahey family runs deep. Gary and Richie earned All Ireland senior medals with the Tribesmen, other brothers inspired Killanin teams at all levels for a couple of decades. Then along came Niamh, who continues to forge a remarkable career.
As a teenager Niamh Fahey proved to be exactly what Galway needed to win an All Ireland ladies title in 2004. Fahey just offered that little bit extra. Around that time she started to play a bit of football too spinning in to line out for Salthill Devon. Unsurprisingly her talent was appreciated by a different audience.
Underage international caps followed before Fahey made her senior debut in March 2007. It wasn’t long before offers arrived. Arsenal, loaded with ambition and desire, noticed. Silverware was gleaned alongside Emma Byrne, Ciara Grant, and Yvonne Tracy - significant influences for Fahey, who all remain good pals.
At the end of last year, though, Chelsea’s offer of professional football provided Fahey with an opportunity to pursue her sporting ambitions on a full time basis. It has continues to be an exciting and demanding challenge. “It is different playing full time,” Fahey admits.
“It is taking a while to get used to it as it is completely different not having to rush around trying to get everything done.
“You have more time on your hands which in a way has taken me a while to adjust to. Overall, though, it is great to just have one thing to concentrate on. The increased amount of time you have to rest aids your performance - that is important.
“I do stay in regular contact with Emma Byrne at Arsenal. Yvonne Tracy and Ciara Grant who were there too during my time at Arsenal I’d be in contact with them too. We all had a great time at Arsenal.”
The World Cup means that the FA Women’s Super League has currently stopped until July 12, but Chelsea’s players not involved at the tournament are still preparing for a defining spell.
“We got two weeks off so it was nice to get a bit of a break to get ready for the second half of the season. It is going really well, I like the place, and I’ve enjoyed it hugely so far. We are halfway there. The rest of the season will be a great challenge for us.”
That is definitely the case with the August 1 Wembley Stadium FA Women’s Cup final date with Notts County carrying particular appeal for Fahey. “It will be class to go to play at Wembley. A good few are travelling over for the weekend so that will be nice.”
Now in London for seven years Fahey is adamant that the Women’s game has progressed. Arsenal were brilliant standard bearers, but the emergence of other forces is a healthy development.
“Since I’ve come over there has been a steady improvement,” Fahey acknowledges. “In the past six or seven years there has been an increasing competitiveness to the League. That is proven by just how hard fought the last couple of title races have been.
“Before then Arsenal dominated. At the time Arsenal were just that bit stronger than everybody else, but now the competitiveness of the league is better. Any team can get a result against any other which means that any point you get is earned.
“I think the reason other teams improved is that they saw potential. They pumped money in trying to attract high profile players from overseas.
“Then in other areas like strength and conditioning where Arsenal were far ahead others started doing what they were doing. It means there is a far better spread and as a whole the league is in a better place.”
Ireland’s Euro 2017 qualification campaign commences in September with Sue Ronan’s squad placed in a tough group with Finland, Portugal, Spain, and Montenegro. Despite the emergence of a Women’s National League Fahey feels footballers will need to leave Ireland if they are to truly realise their potential presently.
“It is tough. Being realistic the player pool isn’t big enough at the moment to sustain the league and for us to improve hugely at international level. That is only now, it might change in the future. If more people played at a younger age the league in Ireland would become stronger.
“In terms of wanting to become an established international I think most will have to look outside of Ireland if they are to realise their full potential. That could change in the future, though, and it will be interesting to see what happens.”
With Galway managed by Kevin Walsh and featuring promising youngsters from Killanin like the Sweeney twins and Johnny Heaney Fahey remains an avid follower of all matters maroon. “I got home for a week during a mini heatwave. With Kevin being in charge and local lads being around the panel I still keep an eye on things. Probably even more so now with the lads involved.
“I was meant to go to the Mayo game, but had to settle for watching it on the television. We are getting there; the future is promising.”
So any chance that Fahey might feature for Galway again when her football career in the UK finishes. “I’d like to go back home eventually. Anybody that knows me knows Gaelic Football was my real sporting love or passion. Hopefully when I finish up here I’ll be in good enough physical condition to go back to play. That is the grand plan, but you never know.” Out in the wild west of Ireland sporting enthusiasts look forward to that plan being executed.