The Aviva Soccer Sisters programme has seen 30,000 young girls between the ages of seven and fourteen go through the process of being welcomed to football since it kicked off in 2010.

Brand ambassador Áine O’Gorman just missed out on being part of it but she was back yesterday at the Stella Maris pitch near Tolka Park where she first began to play the game that has now brought her to the cusp of a World Cup Finals.

“It’s a little bit nicer now,” she remembered, sitting in the dressing rooms with Sport for Business yesterday which didn’t exist back in the day.

“Now it’s got a lovely all-weather surface but when I was playing it was a muddy grass pitch and there was a brick wall coming right up to the sideline.”

“It’s great to see how it has developed over the past twenty years.”

You could say the same about O’Gorman who has now won 114 caps for the Republic of Ireland and has been a star of the domestic game in Women’s football since scoring a hat trick in the 2010 FAI Women’s Cup Final.

She has been Player of the Year twice and the top goalscorer in the League on five occasions. Apart from two seasons in England with Doncaster Belles, she has remained a home bird playing with Peamount United, UCD Waves, and for this first season of the Women’s Premier Division in the SSE Airtricity League of Ireland, with Shamrock Rovers.

“I’ve always loved being at home and playing a part in developing the domestic game,” she said when we asked had she ever felt as though a spell in the English top-flight now might be on the cards.

“I had that couple of seasons with Doncaster, and that was fine but I got to play in the Champions’ League with Peamount so I don’t feel as if I missed out on anything.”

Seeing how the Women’s National League has grown and developed to where it is now has been very special in its own way and I’ve built a life here surrounded by family and friends.

Getting to a World Cup Finals this year would be a very special way to crown a career where she became an FAI centurion back in 2018, then retired from the national team before being persuaded to return by incoming manager Vera Pauw.

“Glasgow was a dream come true and it was the next step in the development of the game,” she said.

“Being there, with that group of players was very special and the reaction since has been fantastic. All the points along the way, including the next one of heading to the US next month to play against the World Champions as part of our warm-up have been brilliant to be part of, and it’s nice to be back here where it all began today.”

There are no guaranteed seats on the plane to Australia but should O’Gorman be part of the squad she will have one very special supporter cheering in the stands.

Baby James was born last summer and she burst into her trademark smile when we asked had his arrival changed her view of the world.

“Ah he is just brilliant, and he’ll be celebrating his first birthday during the World Cup.”

“Rachel (O’Gorman’s partner) has been fantastic through these early months, letting me away with a fair few of the night feeds when I’ve been training or playing, and everyone around us from family and friends have been great.”

“I want James to grow up and not see the difference between boys and girls playing football, whether that’s watching from the stands or on the telly, or running out onto the pitch and playing games.”

O’Gorman was one of the ‘rebels’ back in 2017 that took a stand on the treatment of the Women’s game. That was brave but look where it has gone since. Her old manager and friend Eileen Gleeson is now installed as Head of Women’s Football at the FAI and the team is heading to a first-ever major championship Finals.

But she knows where the games begin and retracing her own steps in the hope of inspiring others into the game is a job done lightly for Aviva and the Soccer Sisters programme.