Niamh Fahey has played for some big clubs.

The Republic of Ireland defender started her career at Salthill Devon before moving across the water to an all-conquering Arsenal team back in 2008. A switch to Chelsea came six years later, and the 31-year-old then had a short stint with Bordeaux in Division 1 Feminine.

However, her 2018 move to Liverpool felt like a landmark moment. 

Fahey has a mantelpiece heaving with silver having picked up five league titles, five FA Cups and three League Cups in a hugely successful career, but making it to Merseyside was the realisation of a dream.

During her childhood in Galway, the Fahey household was a Liverpool-mad zone, with Niamh following in her brothers' footsteps by supporting the Reds.

It made her move to the famous English club all the sweeter and frames the looming Merseyside derby in a nice personal narrative. For the first time, Liverpool FC Women will play a league fixture at Anfield - and vice-captain Fahey is counting down the days.

"We didn't know it was coming," she tells RTÉ Sport. "It was a great surprise when we were told we were going to be playing there, in a derby fixture as well.

"For everyone to have the opportunity to play at such an iconic ground is a dream come true. It's magnificent. I just can't wait for it.

"I'm a lifelong Liverpool fan so it's even better for the likes of us who are actual supporters as well.

"I think there's a good crew coming over for it from Galway. There's some old Gaelic football friends who were making the trip over anyway so the fact it's going to be in Anfield... it's going to be brilliant.

"My mam, dad and brothers are coming over, cousins... I think everyone is jumping on the bandwagon! A lot of my family would be Liverpool supporters. My brothers were all Liverpool fans so I probably got it passed down to me."

Their women's team usually play their home games at Prenton Park, home of Tranmere Rovers but Liverpool are following other clubs' lead by pencilling in the 17 November fixture against Everton at their own stadium.

Almost 25,000 fans watched Chelsea beat Spurs 1-0 in a Women's Super League clash at Stamford Bridge in September, one day after 31,213 turned up to see Manchester City edge past Manchester United at the Etihad. That was a record attendance for a Women's Super League game.

Three weeks later West Ham lost 2-0 to Spurs at the London Stadium, with Leanne Kiernan coming off the bench for the Hammers in front another big crowd of 24,790.

This derby will continue a positive trend, one which, Fahey says, will give the women's game another "massive" boost in terms of exposure.

"A lot of kids will have the opportunity to go. It gives the game that exposure that it wouldn't get in a normal league game. It's huge for the game, huge progress, and it shows where women's football wants to get to.

"You can't underestimate the significance of having young girls coming to the game and have that seed planted for their future progress.

"I was lucky enough to play at Anfield once before when I was at Arsenal. We played an FA Cup game there against Liverpool so I got to experience it but I think it's going to be completely different this time, playing for Liverpool, touching the This Is Anfield sign and hearing You'll Never Walk Alone.

"That's going to be something special. Hopefully we get a good crowd. Obviously being a derby it'll be a nice spicy atmosphere as well."

The experienced Fahey knows full well the value of having a healthy backing behind you.

Earlier this month Ireland edged a five-goal thriller against Ukraine in front of 5,328 people at Tallaght Stadium. It was the largest attendance ever for a women's international game in this country, and afterwards several of the players noted the impact the home support had on their display.

"Everyone wants to play in front of big crowds," adds Fahey. "That lift they give you, like the energy that was in Tallaght, it's amazing. The crowd was right behind us all the way.

"It's what you need in a football ground - you want to hear that. A big tackle comes in and everyone gets up for it. It lifts you as a player."

The other factor behind the Tallaght buzz was the presence of new manager Vera Pauw, who was in the dugout for the first time since being name the permanent successor to Colin Bell.

Ireland have two wins from two in Euro 2021 qualification and sit second in Group I. They have never qualified for a major tournament, but there's a quiet confidence in the camp.

"It was a top-class appointment," Fahey says of Dutch coach Pauw.

"It was great to get a manager of her calibre in. A lot of her philosophy is about not being afraid of failure, to play without fear. That releases the shackles off players a lot. It's an exciting time to be around the national team

"I think it's the most competitive squad I've ever been involved in. To make the squad now is a huge thing. Hopefully it comes to fruition in terms of qualification.

"Without doubt everyone fully believes we can do it. We have the quality, the manager, the backing. We just need to put in the performances now.

"We are good enough - it's just about taking each game as it comes, not underestimating anyone, because anything can happen. But there is a confidence there."  

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