The first half of this year has seen Diane Caldwell return to scenes of previous adventures.

As the Republic of Ireland defender prepares to face Iceland - a country in which she played for Þór/KA exactly 10 years ago - in a friendly double-header on 11 and 15 June in Reykjavik, the 32-year-old is also enjoying life in the United States at club level.

In a "last-minute" move which was confirmed in January she linked up with Ireland team-mate Denise O'Sullivan at NWSL powerhouses North Carolina Courage, ending a five-year adventure in Germany's Bundesliga.

The US was a country in which she had played at college level for Hofstra University alongside the likes of former fellow Irish internationals Marie Curtin and Edel Malone in the late 2000s.

"The American Dream," she quips to RTÉ Sport as she explains how the second move to the US - this time as a fully-fledged pro player - is panning out ahead of the two important friendlies that are helping Ireland prep for the start of the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

"It's been going really well. I've been there around two-and-a-half months now. I had a little bit of Visa delays with everything going on with Covid and everything but I was just happy to finally get there and catch the tail end of pre-season and the Challenge Cup.

"And now our league has begun and we have four games played in the league and I played in the last two, so I'm very happy with how it's going so far."

Caldwell before a game against Orlando Pride

The settling in process has been helped no end by the presence of the aforementioned O'Sullivan who has been on the books at the Courage since 2017.

"Denise is like a mother to me over there," says Caldwell of the 27-year-old attacking midfielder, joking that "she's always making sure I have my sun cream on before going out to training".

"I had to adapt to the heat but she's taking good care of me and it's great to have her there on the team with me."

O'Sullivan played a role in bringing Caldwell to North Carolina after texting her to find out about her contract status. That was because the highly-respected Courage head coach Paul Riley had viewed the defender as a player of potential value to his squad as he sought a right-sided centre-back.

Interest from a coach of that calibre - last August, Marie Curtin told RTÉ Sport that Riley was her "biggest influence as a coach and manager" from her time at Long Island Fury - is a compliment in and of itself and Caldwell has been soaking in his expertise in recent months.

"He's definitely one of the best in the game. I think the biggest thing is his standards, what he expects day-in, day-out," she explains.

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"We train like we play and that's not an off-the-cuff remark. It literally is the intensity of a game everyday in training and that's the standards that he sets and he demands of his players.

"The Courage have got where they are because of him and they've been tremendously successful in the last few seasons, so it's up to us as players as the squad transitions a little bit to uphold those standards and push on."

And of course, the experience of transferring to an elite competition in the US has differed as an experienced player compared to when she first moved 15 years ago to join the college circuit.

"The college game was great because it was basically a semi-professional environment while still getting your education," says Caldwell.

"The level was good and we were looked after as if we were professionals. But of course, when you do go to the NWSL it's a whole other ball game. It's the best of the best and the game is so fast-paced that it's another step up again."

But while life in North Carolina is going well so far, all thoughts for the next week will be on international matters. Ireland lost the two friendlies earlier this year against Denmark and Belgium. But that does not really tell the story.

Both are teams in the top 20 of the FIFA rankings and both losses were by narrow 1-0 margins against high-calibre opposition as Ireland head coach Vera Pauw looks to test the squad out before the start of a World Cup qualifying campaign which has the team pitted against a powerhouse like Sweden, a Euro 2022-qualified Finland as well as Slovakia and Georgia.

Having just missed out on the European Championship play-offs last year, going one better is the aim this time and Caldwell believes Iceland, who are also ranked in the world's top 20, will provide another potent evaluation of how this Ireland side is developing.

"They will be really tough tests, similar to the last friendlies against Denmark and Belgium and it's great to have those sorts of tests against that calibre of team," she says.

"We need to push on now against the likes of those teams. You saw from the friendly games that we can compete now with those types of teams and put in good performances. But now we need results and again it's a great opportunity for us to have a really tough test."

Watch Iceland v Republic of Ireland on Friday 11 June and Tuesday 15 June on the RTÉ Player and the RTÉ News Channel from 6pm.