Megan Connolly: My greatest game

Albion women's first-team midfielder Megan Connolly talks about her greatest game.

By James Hilsum • 27 September 2019

By Patrick Sullivan
Megan Connolly talks through her greatest game.

The midfielder scored a late winner from a free kick for the Republic of Ireland in a 2-1 victory over Sweden in the UEFA Women's Under-19 Championship group stages.

So Megan, what was your greatest game?

It was back in 2014 in the Under-19 European Championships, and we were playing against Sweden. They had already played two games in the group. We had played Spain in the first game and beat them 1-0, and beat England as well. We had to beat Sweden to get into the semi-finals. The game was in Norway, it was about 30 degrees and we were playing on astroturf and the heat was ridiculous! We went 1-0 down and then about ten or 15 minutes later, we got one back to make it 1-1 at half-time. Then I scored from a free kick with ten minutes of the game left to secure us a 2-1 win.

Megan Connolly celebrates with her team-mates.

What were your feelings going out onto the pitch before the game?

There was so much coverage around the tournament and back home. Personally, I love pressure, and a lot of press had been done building up to the game, and I got interviewed beforehand too. I was extra hyped for the game, and I was buzzing to get out there. We had already beaten Spain and England, two teams that we weren’t expected to beat, so we thought, why can’t we beat Sweden?

What was the first half like?

It was horrid! Sweden were a very physical team, and turned the game into a battle. With the heat and going 1-0 down early on, it made it very tough for us. We responded very quickly, and our equaliser came from a set piece. I delivered the ball, one of our defenders headed it from outside the 18-yard box and the power managed to beat the keeper. There were a lot of our family and friends inside the crowd, so once we scored, it gave us that extra lift. Then going into half-time, it was anyone’s game.

Can you talk us through the half-time team talk?

The manager was trying to push us through because people were really struggling with the heat, but we knew that we had to win the game. We were on such a high from beating two teams that we weren’t supposed to, and that gave us added motivation in the second half.

Megan Connolly celebrates at the final whistle.

How did the second half go?

The battle continued! The coaches were shouting and the game was non-stop. It was in the 86th minute when we got a free kick just outside the edge of the box, and as I was walking up to it, the manager called me and said, ‘come on Megan, we need you!’ I took a few deep breaths, because I had practised these so much. I thought to myself that now is the time to score. I heard the travelling fans singing before it went dead silent as I went up to take the kick. The ball went in the top corner, so I ran straight to the manager and there was a massive bundle! I was shattered afterwards. We had to hold on for a few minutes, and then afterwards there were wild celebrations because we had beaten three of the top seeds in our game to get to the semi-finals of a European Championship. To this very day, that game stands out.

What was the reaction from back home?

It was funny because people could watch the game online, but there was a glitch, so between the 85th and 90th minute, nobody could see what was going on! Then they saw we had won the game. But the reaction was crazy and for us to get to the semi-finals was a massive achievement.

We had a special group of players, and to finish the group stages with three wins and nine points was fantastic. You live for those moments in football, and scoring from that free lick was extra special, because I had practised them so many times with my dad. I must’ve taken about 50 free kicks with him every day, so to have that chance and for it to go in was perfect.

What happened in the semi-finals?

We played the Netherlands and they were different class. Vivianne Miedema, who now plays for Arsenal, scored a hat-trick and they beat us 4-0. It was 1-0 at half-time, but in the second half they pulled away. Fitness wise, they were better than us. To go out against a team like that, who went onto win the tournament, was no disgrace for us.