Wales keeper O’Sullivan eyes FA Cup shock

You might assume that Wales’ goalkeeper spends every minute of her time focusing on football.

You would be wrong.

Laura O’Sullivan works full time and plays her club football for an amateur side, Cardiff City Ladies, where the players were paying subs until last season.

Should Cardiff upset the odds by winning their women’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at Burnley this Sunday (14:00 GMT), the talk in the dressing room is that a slice of the prize money will be spent on new club-branded winter coats.

As it stands, O’Sullivan and company do not have any.

There are no complaints – that is just the way it is when you play in Division One South West, the fourth tier of the English women’s football pyramid.

Cardiff City Ladies, who are not to be confused with Cardiff City Women, the team associated with the men’s Championship club, train on two evenings a week.

On top of club training, O’Sullivan does gym work and has a weekly session with a goalkeeping coach from the Football Association of Wales (FAW), meaning she has only one football-free day each week.

O’Sullivan, who has 58 Wales caps, may not be a full-time footballer, but she is fully devoted to her sport.

Football fits around O’Sullivan’s “rewarding” day job, at a Cardiff training provider who help people in care land apprenticeships.

“There’s plenty of evenings,” O’Sullivan tells BBC Sport Wales.

“I work nine to five. I use up all my evenings to work [on football]. It’s a lot of commitment, but football isn’t a lifetime thing.

“You just put in the hours, it depends how much you want it. For me, to play here [at Cardiff], to play at international level, you just have to grab every bit of it.”

O’Sullivan has spent much of her career at Cardiff. She started out with the Dragons before a spell with Yeovil Town, then a top-flight team, in 2017, the year she was named Wales’ female footballer of the year.

But her time with the Somerset club was brief, with O’Sullivan joining Cyncoed Ladies before returning for a second stint at Cardiff.

The club are on the up right now, having lost only once in the league this season following last year’s shock relegation from the National League Southern Premier Division.

The immediate target for Jamie Phillip’s team is a return to the third tier, but O’Sullivan says Cardiff have loftier ambitions.

“You want to get to the top levels – you want to get to the WSL (Women’s Super League) – so this is a starting point,” she says.

“Promotion takes us into tier three and we can go from there, but we have to put in the hard work.”

To an extent the pressure is off as Cardiff’s focus switches to the FA Cup this weekend.

Having come through four rounds to get this far, Cardiff missed out on a plum tie against top-level opposition, and instead travel to face a Burnley team who are going well in the Northern Premier division – the third tier of the English game.

“You could say [we are underdogs], but I think football’s on the day,” O’Sullivan says. “We will match them up and they will match us up. It depends who wants it more.”

O’Sullivan will soon switch her attention to Wales – and to taking time off work – with the Pinatar Cup to come in Spain next month.

Gemma Grainger’s team may still be licking wounds having lost their World Cup play-off final to a last-gasp Switzerland goal last October, but O’Sullivan sees grounds for optimism as Wales build towards the Nations League and, further down the line, Euro 2025 qualifying.

“We look at every game, we have to take it game by game, but [reaching Euro 2025] is the goal,” she says.

“We have just made the play-offs. That’s history in itself – no-one has ever made it there in the women’s game in Wales. It’s great to have the opportunity to take it one step further.”

O’Sullivan regards Grainger’s new contract as positive move for Wales, and calls news that the nation’s male and female players will be paid the same for representing their country “a positive step in the right direction”.

“Welsh football has been growing and growing,” she says.

“The men have got to the World Cup. That’s a great step. Having the women’s game on an equal level with pay is another great step.

“Hopefully it then feeds into our clubs. The level [women’s football] growing to, you just hope it stays at the at level and everybody sees an opportunity to play football as a job.

“If I was a younger age, that’s the opportunity you strive for. You strive to play every single day of your life.”

To her credit, O’Sullivan does exactly that, despite not giving up the day job.

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