15

HAYLEY

NOLAN

No one else knows this but...
I use to live in Sydney, Australia.
 
Best piece of advice anyone has ever given me...
That it is important not to get caught up in the moments/occasions and to just go out there and “express yourself”.
I love Football because...
It has given me so many opportunities to travel and meet new people. It allows me to express myself and to be in the moment.

Age: 24

Height: 5''7

Position: Midfielder

Star Sign: Pisces

Place of Birth: Dublin

Nationality: 

LCL debut: 27/09/20

Previous clubs: Peamount United, CT Fusion

Ireland.png
 

Hayley Nolan on her Republic of Ireland call-up and determination to compete at the top:

Written by Club Journalist Cassie Coombes

Twitter: @CassieCoombes98

 

When Hayley Nolan received a phone call while studying in West Hartford, USA, she could not have imagined how a simple act of communication would have such a significant impact on her career. After years of being on the peripheries of the national team, the 23-year-old’s steely determination finally paid off and earnt her a call-up to the Republic of Ireland senior squad.


“When she [Vera Pauw] called me to tell me, I was a bit in shock and a lot of relief went over me because I’ve been fighting a lot of years to get into that team,” Nolan remembers. “Coaches in the past haven’t really looked my way, but I think when Vera Pauw called me and said she wanted to give me that chance – I think it’s everyone’s dream to play for their country and when she called, I had just achieved what I set out to do for so many years and dedicated my life to do – which is to play football and get to the highest level.”

Despite being separated by over 3,000 miles from her parents back in their hometown of Kildare when she received the call-up, the midfielder can still recall the moment she revealed the news to her parents. “My mum was definitely very excited. They have been through the journey with me and when coaches have picked the squad and did not pick me, they were with me when I was upset. They have been through that with me, so when they heard that I had got my first call-up they were over the moon and couldn’t wait to see me.”

The opportunity to represent her country had always been an ambition; one that Nolan feared may have been slipping further away as she reached her 23rd birthday. Despite the fears that she may have missed her opportunity, the dedication and self-belief that Nolan has carried throughout her career ensured that she would be rewarded for her perseverance. 

Growing up in Kildare as the youngest of three girls, Nolan was her father’s last chance of nurturing a footballing talent, with her older siblings dropping out of football around the age of 12. As the coach of a local boys’ team, Nolan’s father persuaded his daughter to join despite her being the only girl on the team.

 

“I am the youngest of three girls and my Dad always wanted a boy, so I was the last one and he forced me into football when I was five or six. My two other sisters did play. We all got forced into it at one stage, but the two of them dropped out around 12, 13 and went into different sports. I thought I was good at it so I thought I would stick at it.”

Despite a brief stint at left-back when she was younger – a position she was eager to transition out of in favour of “more excitement than just defending,” Nolan settled into central midfield, a position that would allow her to use her composure on the ball to dictate the play. Playing in a boys’ team throughout her youth did much to develop Nolan into the sharp midfielder she is today, and she owes a large part of her game to that experience.

“I wish I were able to play with the boys until I was eighteen. The senior head coach now of the Irish team, Vera Pauw, she wants us all to still train with boys. So, the girls who are still playing in Ireland, she is telling them to still play with the boys. They are like my age, 23, 24 and she is like: ‘you have to go and train with the boys because they’ll make you quicker, they’ll make you faster and the way you think about the game will be completely different.’ So, I think that really helped me and I wish I were able to continue on and play with them.”

After reaching the age limit for playing boy’s football, Nolan made the move to Peamount United, a women’s team based in Dublin who are renowned for producing some of the best female talent in Ireland.

“Peamount is one of the best clubs in Ireland for developing younger players. It’s in Dublin but girls from all over the country come to play there. I was very lucky that it was only twenty minutes from my house, but it is a great club. And then obviously making my senior debut when I was sixteen was huge, because I was very young,” she reflects.

Making her senior debut at sixteen was an early indication of the promising future Nolan had ahead in women’s football. Despite also possessing a talent for Gaelic football, which saw her play competitively up until the age of eighteen and earn a scholarship at college, the midfielder decided that football was her priority. The pivotal moment in the midfielders’ career came during a trip to the United States with her local team. The opportunity to travel to the United States only emerged from the disappointment of not being selected for the U17 national team, emphasising the cliché that when one door closes, another opens. 

“That just happened by accident, I think. I actually didn’t make the U17 Irish team and instead I went away with a local Dublin team to the states just to play in a competition for a week in Dallas. When I was there, I realised it was a competition where college coaches came to watch you play. At the time I did not know that. I just thought it was a holiday to play football. A few coaches approached me and asked me if I wanted to play college football. I had no idea what that meant.”

Following her week in Dallas, Nolan was inspired to explore the opportunities that a move to the States would bring, and the youngster wasted no time in preparing her résumé to apply to colleges. In 2015, a few years on from her trip to Dallas, Nolan moved to the University of Hartford on a four-year scholarship.

The American college system is often hailed as one of the most professional set-ups for aspiring female footballers. The system offers the chance for players to pursue sporting excellence alongside their studies, and many international players can be traced back to the U.S college system. For Nolan, the experience allowed her to gain qualifications in economics and finance and complete an MBA, alongside pursuing excellence on the football pitch.

“It was a pro set-up – completely. I was not even expecting it. When I got there, I was shocked by how well they treated you. We were just as equal as the boys’, if not more so. The quality of the equipment and facilities was second to none.

“When I was eighteen and younger, before I went to the states no one really emphasised the importance of fitness and nutrition. When I went to the states that was the first thing, they said to me. They said: ‘you need to get in the weights room,’ because I had never really touched weights when I was eighteen. I worked a lot on my explosiveness and core and really focused on nutrition. Since then, that has been built into me.”

Nolan describes her time at Hartford as an environment in which she “thrived”, with the added focus on fitness and nutrition providing her with the knowledge to maximise her chances of becoming a professional footballer. Having been named Team Captain in both 2017 and 2018, and capping off her senior year with six goals, three assists, and a place in the America East All-Conference First Team, Nolan’s time at Hartford was a success. After flourishing in the States, the 23-year-old was eager to return closer to home, and the opportunity to join London City Lionesses in August 2020, under then head coach, Lisa Fallon, seemed to be the perfect opportunity. “I think Lisa did have a big influence. She’s a huge name in Ireland, she’s a household name in the sports and soccer world and that definitely helped.”

Nolan was also attracted to London City Lionesses as one of only a handful of women’s teams chasing the opportunity to compete at the highest level without the backing of a men’s club. “The club being a separate identity from a male club was another thing because then we are the focus, and I have been at clubs before where the men’s team takes the main focus, and I think that here, it’s all about us and it grabbed me.”

So far this campaign, Nolan has made twelve appearances for London City Lionesses, earning player of the match in her second appearance for the club against Durham. After adjusting to the life in the FA Women’s Championship, Nolan is now determined to look ahead and help the club achieve their ambitions.

“I’m not usually into New Year Resolutions but my goal for the club is to get into the WSL. We have a lot of younger players, but the dedication is there, and we have older players as well who have been playing in the league for years which is a great mix. For the club, I definitely want to help them get into the top division.”

Part of Nolan’s desire to help the club achieve their ambitions stems from her own drive to compete against the very best. Being part of the Republic of Ireland senior squad has given her a taste of the dedication required to compete at the top, and the 23-year-old is determined to continue this mentality. 

“What I learnt when I was there, was that even on your worst days you have to demand the best. Obviously, you’re going to have a bad day, and everyone has one where your touch is messed up, that happens, but I have learnt that you have to be determined to always give your best and you can always control your effort and that’s what was pushed on me.

“You can’t work hard three days of a seven. You cannot switch off; you need to be dedicated for seven days. My parents used to always say to me: ‘you have to express yourself.’ There’s no point going out on the pitch and being nervous and not wanting the ball, you need to believe in yourself and go out there and just have fun and enjoy it.”

With positive performances in recent weeks, maintaining clean sheets, London City Lionesses turned those goal less draws into a brilliant 3-0 win over Blackburn Rovers on the 24th Jan 2021. Nolan is confident that the team has the players, the backing, and the coaching staff to compete at the highest level.