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Laura Heffernan Interview Dylan O’Connell

Shelbourne assistant coach Laura Heffernan has one of the most impressive CVs in Irish women’s football.

The UEFA A Licence holder, who also managed the Wexford Youths senior team, has won three Women’s National League titles and one underage national league. She was also part of the management team in the UEFA Women’s Champions League while overseeing the development of future Republic of Ireland internationals Rianna Jarrett and Claire O’Riordan.

In addition to her work with the Shelbourne academy, Heffernan has also worked as assistant manager for the Red’s senior team.

Laura: “I was playing in the Women’s National League with Wexford and the Wexford Development Officer approached me about doing an FAI course,” she told Pro-Scout 3, “I did the course and followed it up with a Youth Cert and then the UEFA B License. When I finished the B License, the management structure at Wexford Youths changed and I went into coach the women’s team.”

Laura: “The transition from playing to coaching was strange. I went from being teammates with the squad to be their coach. It was a totally different dynamic. At the start, I was just a coach so it was okay. I went to America for a year and when I came back I took up the role of Head Coach at Wexford.”

Laura: “That was a difficult transition as I was the same age as some of the players and I was their former teammate. It took some getting used to but looking back it was a really rewarding time for me.”

At Wexford, she led the club into the Champions League qualifiers. Each time was a historic run for the club, as they regularly produced results on the biggest stage for women’s football. Most notable, in 2015 they won two games and lost one in a qualifying group which saw Wexford miss out by three points for a place in the competition proper.

Laura: “My time at Wexford was as successful as it could have been. Trophy wise it was hugely successful and I built up some fantastic memories.”

Laura: “The Champions League was fantastic especially the run we went on in 2015. We were very unlucky that year as the runners up in the groups did not progress into the competition proper. If it was the year previous, the best second-placed teams would have progressed.”

Laura: “That whole week to ten days in the competition was unbelievable. It was great to get to experience the professionalism of that environment.”

Heffernan made the move from her local club in January 2018 to north Dublin to take up her current job at Shelbourne.

Laura: “When I went up first I went up as the u17s manager. That brought different challenges to what I was used to. I had to change how I did things like approaching players and structuring training sessions. There were similarities to Wexford like the dedications was second to none.”

Laura: “My first year I commuted every day from Wexford. That was very time-consuming. In my second season, I started working with both teams. At the start, I was doing warm-ups for the senior team. It was very physical working for the two teams because match-days sometimes clashed. This season I have made the decision to take on an assistant role with the seniors full time.”

Laura: “Shelbourne are really leading the way for Irish women’s football. Bringing both the male and female teams under one banner was a great statement for women’s football in the national league.”

Shelbourne’s unification of their male and female teams is part of the hundreds of initiatives to promote Irish women’s football. After spending her whole career in the Women’s National League, Heffernan has seen the growth of the game first hand and is glad to see things finally taking off.

Laura: “Irish football has really come on over the last ten years. Just look at the players who have progressed from the Women’s National League to the senior Irish team. There are so many opportunities available now to young players. You cannot underestimate the semi-professional national league here.”

Laura: “I worked with Rianna Jarrett and Claire O’Riordan. They are fantastic players. I would have known Rianna since she was very young. We were also teams at Wexford Youths. Seeing her now at Brighton is fantastic to see. The same goes for Claire. She was always so energetic and would do anything for you in training or on the pitch. Both of them are a testament to Wexford and the strength of the Women’s National League.”