Hearts star Ciara Grant aims to inspire future generations after an “unforgettable” World Cup experience

A World Cup like no other, Hearts midfielder Ciara Grant hopes that the Republic of Ireland’s appearance at the tournament can inspire the next generation.
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After four and a half weeks of spectacular football in Australia and New Zealand, the 2023 World Cup came to an end last month. While for some it was a tournament to forget, for others, it was one that will live long in the player's memories. Ireland secured their spot at the tournament for the first time ever last year and kicked off the games in front of a spectacular crowd as they faced off against joint-hosts Australia.

Grant, a senior international with the Gers in Green, had recently forced herself back into the squad after an incredible run of form at the Jam Tarts, which saw her win Hearts’ Player of the Year last season. However, a better reward was yet to come as she was selected among 22 other Irish internationals to join head coach Vera Pauw at the tournament.

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“It was incredible,” she told the Edinburgh Evening News. “Playing our opening game in front of 75,000 people was something really special and it’ll be something I never forget. Now it is about trying to use that experience from being away for 10 weeks and bringing it back to the team.”

Ciara Grant preparing for the World Cup with a friendly against Zambia. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)Ciara Grant preparing for the World Cup with a friendly against Zambia. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Ciara Grant preparing for the World Cup with a friendly against Zambia. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The Republic of Ireland were given a tough group as Canada and Nigeria joined the Matildas to complete group B. While the knockout stages proved to be a step too far for Grant and co, it was a performance that inspired their home nation. Upon their return, thousands of fans flooded Dublin to welcome their side back with the 30-year-old hopeful that their appearance at the tournament can only continue to inspire.

“They think 10% of the [Australian] population was Irish, so it was like home fixtures and in the first game, there were 25,000 Irish people there,” she added. “It was honestly insane. Because we were so far, we didn’t realise the impact it was having on in Ireland so when we came home and saw the 10,000 people in the city centre, it was special.

“We want to have that legacy and impact on future generations so that in 10, 20 years’ time, all those girls and boys watching us at the World Cup will just think that’s all a normality. I have little cousins who are six and they know everything about the team. Hearts’ women’s team, it doesn’t matter to him that we are women and not men so that’s quite inspiring.

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“Even 10 years ago when I first got into the Ireland team it was very amateur. Even as a 19-year-old getting into the team, it was almost like that was a given as the progression went on. Then I came back two years ago, and it was night and day better in terms of the professionalism, the support, the standard, everything. 22 of the 23 that travelled were all professional and that just shows the difference but also the opportunities that are out there for young girls. We have some semi-pros now that are 17 years old and professionals at 19 years old. When I was that age that wasn’t even a thing that I could consider."