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USWNT Great Heather O’Reilly Unretires to Join Irish Club

Heather O’Reilly nearly made it three years in her retirement from professional soccer.

The former USWNT star announced Thursday on the BBC World Football podcast that she is returning to the pitch to play for the Irish club Shelbourne FC and fulfill her dream of competing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.

O’Reilly, who is now a mother to two boys, participated in the Soccer Aid this summer where Arsène Wenger, FIFA’s chief of global football development and former Arsenal manager, was her manager. According to O’Reilly, Wenger was her motivation to join the Champions League and live out one final dream in her acclaimed soccer career.

“I am somebody that chases their dreams,” O’Reilly said on the podcast. “I had a long, successful, trophy-ridden career and I am very proud of that, but there was this one hole on my resume that I never played Champions League football.”

The legendary midfielder chose Shelbourne because of the Irish ancestry in her family and feeling that she could bring an immediate impact to the club. 

“They’re the champions of Ireland, they had a very successful season last year in order to win the league, but they are still very much a club and a league that needs a lot of growth,” O’Reilly said.

O’Reilly also credited some of her former teammates—Denise Sullivan from NWSL’s Courage and Louise Quinn and Katie McCabe from Arsenal— as catalysts in what she hopes can bring more exposure to the league.

“They are producing some wonderful talent but they need a lot of help with their league in terms of resources and professionalism,” O’Reilly said. “I feel that I could bring some eyeballs onto this league, bring some eyeballs onto this team and grow the game a little bit.”

O’Reilly last played for the NWSL’s Courage in ’19 before retiring at the end of that season. Prior to the Courage, she played for the Arsenal in the Barclays Women Soccer League, FC Kansas City, the Breakers, Sky Blue FC and New Jersey Wildcats .

Internationally, O’Reilly spent 15 years on the U.S. women’s national team. She had been named on Thursday to the National Soccer Hall of Fame players ballot after becoming eligible, but the clock will restart for her upon her decision. Players must be fully retired for three calendar years before being eligible for induction.

“In light of Heather O'Reilly coming out of retirement, she is no longer eligible to appear on the Player Ballot for the 2023 election,” the NSHOF wrote on Twitter on Friday. “All of us at the National Soccer Hall of Fame would like to wish Heather good luck as she continues her professional career with Shelbourne!”

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