With her remarkable recovery from injury, endless confidence and litany of top footballers among the fans of her work, Clare Shine carries a sense of invincibility.
In April the forward's involvement at the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship in Norway was in doubt after she broke her leg. Yet within six weeks she was back in training and on Tuesday night she made her mark on the Republic of Ireland's final tournament debut with the only goal against Spain. She has been inundated with congratulatory messages ever since, including one from Hull City AFC midfielder David Meyler.
"We have had so much support, and that's amazing," she said. "It's been nice to prove wrong the people who said that I wouldn't be playing at this tournament. I remember reading about my injury and how I would be ruled out. The newspapers had written me off without even asking me. And now I'm here, scoring for my country. David [Meyler] messaged me over Twitter to say well done. He's been an amazing support and has become a good pal over the years. He knows the pride you feel when you do well for Ireland."
Ireland men's captain and LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane needs no introduction, either, and he sent a video message from the United States to wish the girls luck ahead of their Group B opener. The country's first WU19 finals appearance means a lot, inspiring remarkable recoveries from Shine and also team-mate Katie McCabe, who suffered a broken ankle in February. Her rehabilitation was more complex, but she too regained fitness in good time.
"Katie and I looked at one another as we were walking out through the tunnel and smiled. We both knew what we were thinking, about how lucky we were to be there and how our determination had got us there. I wanted to be part of this team at this important tournament."
After the final tournament draw placed them alongside former winners England, Spain and Sweden in Group B, many singled out Ireland as underdogs. Having quietened their doubters with a 1-0 victory over Spain, the players are already looking ahead to a crunch game against England – for Shine, it could be the highlight of her nascent career.
"I remember just grinning from ear to ear when I saw we would play England because for me personally, it's a lifelong dream," said the 19-year-old. "They're my ultimate rivals. I've always dreamed of playing England in a European finals and it's happening on Friday."
The teams drew 1-1 at La Manga, Spain, four months ago, and Shine believes Ireland can improve on that. "In March we only really gave half of what we had. England will be hurting after losing 2-0 to Sweden, but they'll still think they have a chance because they're brilliant players. I reckon Spain underestimated us and other teams will, too. But they'll do so at their peril."
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