Sinead Farrelly’s return to professional football

-Sinead Farrelly has had a long journey in her return to professional football

-Gotham FC is fortunate to have the player on the team

Sinead Farrelly of Gotham FC and Ireland
Sinead Farrelly of Gotham FC and Ireland / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

NJ/NY Gotham FC player Sinead Farrelly had originally called it quits on soccer with several issues surrounding her personal life. However, she was able to combat it and is now back on the pitch and performing well for both her club and country. In what seems like a sad story, Farrelly’s return to the sport is an inspiration to many. It teaches one to never give up on your passion and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

Farrelly was born and raised in Pennsylvania in a small town called Havertown. She began her youth career within the FC Delco organization, where she played for Spirit United. The program has been known to develop professional players, including Zack Steffen, Ben Olsen, and Nicole Barnhart.   

During her time with the program, she was listed as one of the top young players in the country, giving her a chance to play for the USWNT youth system. Farrelly was even named MVP in all four years while she played high school ball at Haverford High School. This led her to attend the University of Virginia, one of the best women's college soccer programs.   

She was upstanding during her time in college, starting all 90 matches played during her four years. She scored 30 goals and had 22 assists, which led her to be the top goalscorer for the team in both 2009 and 2010. Despite not winning an NCAA title, she was named to the ACC first team several times and was also a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann trophy in her senior year.  

Sinead Farrelly's soccer journey is a long one

This was the start of the Gotham player's professional career as she was chosen by the Philadelphia Independence during the 2011 WPS draft as the number two overall pick. Farrelly continued to play professionally until the start of the NWSL in 2013.   

Her first NWSL team was FC Kansas City, where she spent a season there before she was sent on loan to Cyprus. Farrelly later returned and spent two seasons with Portland Thorns FC, making 36 appearances while scoring two goals during her time with the Thorns.  

This was when things got dark for Farrelly after she announced she was retiring from the sport. She suffered serious back and neck injuries from a car crash in September 2016, so she retired at 27. Not only did she suffer from physical injuries, but she later accused former coach Paul Riley of emotional and mental abuse. She said that after she was drafted, Riley pressured her to have sexual intercourse when she was only 21 years old at the time, while Riley was 46.    

The current Gotham player and others accused the coach of performing several inappropriate actions towards them that would last several years. It even resulted in Farrelly collapsing on the pitch during a 2014 match between her then-team Portland while they faced Chicago, where she revealed that “she couldn’t function under (Riley).”  

After a six-year absence from the sport, Farrelly decided to return to the pitch and signed a deal with Gotham FC in March 2023. She also decided to resume her international career and play for Ireland, with her father having Irish roots.   

After just a few training sessions and one international call-up, Farrelly made the World Cup squad for Ireland. She started all three matches in Australia/New Zealand as a winger, completing two shots (one on target) in that span.  

With Gotham, she started nine of the 23 games played for the club, recording her first NWSL assist since returning to the league. Farrelly was also part of the squad that won the NWSL title, her first piece of hardware since her return.  

As for Riley, he was handed a lifetime ban from the NWSL following the sexual harassment allegations against Farrelly and several other players. He was never criminally charged.

The 34-year-old will enter her second season playing in the NWSL with NJ/NY Gotham FC as she continues to restart her professional career after years of recovery.