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  • Northside East

Shelbourne sensation urges support for women's football

Tuesday, 21st August, 2018 10:50am
Shelbourne sensation urges support for women's football

Jessica Ziu of Shelbourne FC in action. PHOTOS: ANDY FITZSIMONS

Shelbourne sensation urges support for women's football

Jessica Ziu of Shelbourne FC in action. PHOTOS: ANDY FITZSIMONS

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Gavin White

Shelbourne FC's 16-year-old sensation, Jessica Ziu, says the brilliant encouragement received from the coaching staff has been a major factor in her remarkable rise.

The Finglas local has already starred for Ireland’s Under-17 team and travelled to Manchester City to train with the club.

Ziu, whose father emigrated from Albania to Ireland 19 years ago, has been playing since she was five and wanted to join her brother’s team from that age.

As a 14-year-old, the young midfielder won her first international cap for Ireland’s U17 women’s side at the European Championships in the Czech Republic.

Three days later she impressed in a goalless game with European giants the Netherlands.

“To play for Ireland has been amazing, and with Colin Bell in there too, it’s been so good,” Jessica told Northside People.

One of nine children, Ziu has enjoyed her continued involvement with Shels and says the academy is an ideal place for young girls to flourish.

She said it gives her the opportunity to play with friends regularly and provides a great way to be active outside of school.

“The Shelbourne coaches have been really good and have helped me loads since I moved up to the Women's National League side three months ago,” Jessica stated.

The talented teenager has made a strong impression on her older teammates and manager, already taking corners for the senior side, showing excellent initiative and skill.

Moving quickly from the Under 16 side to the Under 18 side, Jessica Ziu is a perfect example of the opportunity that Shelbourne FC Academy gives young girls.

When she was five, she pleaded with her mother to let her join a club with her brothers. They eventually gave in to her persistence, but the Shelbourne FC Academy has proven an ideal place to grow her superb talent.

Jessica’s mother, Sandra, explained: “Jess has been a great player ever since she started. Moving up at Shels from Under 12, she has just really loved it and looks forward to going down every week.”

The Larkin College student, who can play anywhere across the midfield, has a host of awards to her name already. She was the extremely worthy winner of the Herald Sports Star of the Year prize in May 2017. Last year, she was a shortlisted nominee in the Northside People Community & Sports Awards 2017.

Having also played with the Ireland Under 16 team at a development tournament in Mayo, her international career is only beginning.

Since she’s got the international bug, Jessica said she is definitely aiming to make it to the senior Ireland team.

“You see the games with 7,000 people at them and I‘d love to be there, although I think more could be done for the women’s game,” Jessica said.

She would like to see more support for women’s football and feels frustrated by the lack of investment in the sport.

A Shelbourne FC representative told Northside People: "Running an Elite Academy and a Women's National League setup is costly and we really need the support of the business community to help us provide opportunities for elite female athletes.

“The recent success of the women's hockey team and the great PR it generated for their sponsor, SoftCo, just goes to show what can be achieved.”

• Would you like to follow in Jessica's footsteps? Girls born from 2002-2008 are welcome to come along on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to the AUL Complex in Clonshaugh, from 6.30pm to 9pm, to join one of Shelbourne FC's open training sessions. Enquiries to Casey on 087-6187195.

Jessica would like to see more support for women’s football in Ireland.

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