Lisa Fallon on her battle for acceptance coaching the men (Ireland)
“It’s normal for me,” Lisa Fallon says as she reflects on her extraordinary career in men’s football. “In Cork City I’m completely normalised. The lads don’t make any exceptions for me. I don’t make any for them. I’m just a football coach.”
Yet Fallon has made history as the only female coach working in men’s professional football in Ireland. We need two hours to scrape the surface of her breakthrough before, on a snowy afternoon in Cork, we head for the ground where she is a first-team coach in the League of Ireland Premier Division. The new season begins this weekend with last year’s champions, Dundalk, playing the runners-up, Cork City. Fallon will take her place in Cork’s dugout after working her way up from a previous role as opposition analyst.
It is a milestone for women in football – and another step forward for Fallon on a journey which might see her become the first female manager of a professional men’s team in Ireland or England.
I have been lucky enough to interview Johan Cruyff in Amsterdam and to spend an afternoon with Pep Guardiola talking about football in London. Jürgen Klopp was a riot on the two occasions I interviewed him, in Dortmund and Liverpool, but I am as engrossed when the 42-year-old Fallon talks about football. Whether addressing her 12 years in men’s football, the multiple ways of playing 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 or the lessons she learned during qualifying campaigns for one European Championship and two World Cup for Northern Ireland, when she worked as an analyst for Michael O’Neill, Fallon is riveting company.
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