Glentoran Women’s star Caragh Hamilton suffered injury heartache earlier this year to miss the Women’s Euro 2022 finals, but that “blessing in disguise” has opened up a new career path.
Alongside former Linfield Ladies ace and Northern Ireland teammate Megan Bell, who also missed the tournament through injury, Hamilton shone during TV broadcasts of the tournament with punditry work on national TV.
The 26-year-old became an authoritative voice during her nation’s matches and such was her impressive assuredness on screen, she has subsequently appeared as both a pundit and commentator on men’s football games.
This represents somewhat of a breakthrough moment for females in Northern Irish football and Hamilton believes it can serve as a legacy to the growth of women’s football across the country.
“The Euros punditry has opened up so many doors, and maybe my injury was a little blessing in disguise,” she explains. “Now I have another avenue that I can explore, that can help the women’s game grow.
“Not only on the pitch are females being recognised but amongst the men’s game with covering Linfield’s European game and the Northern Ireland international team. Me and Megan’s names were put forward to the broadcasters because they wanted current players who would know the squad well.
“It is so important for women’s presence in football to be recognised – for it not to matter if you’re male or female, but on whether you can do a good job. I don’t want to do this because I’m a female or because there should be that representation, but that I can earn that opportunity and me being female does not prevent that is important.
“I want this to open the door for more females and for the legacy of the Euros to be meaningful in getting more girls into football, both on and off the pitch. This can be in the media side of football, or as officials, or in boards and committees of clubs – breaking that barrier is important and giving more women a voice.”
Hamilton had returned from a cruciate ligament injury last August and had the Euro finals firmly in her sights after starting the World Cup qualifier against England at Wembley, and subsequently was selected for the pre-tournament full-time training squad.
However, a thigh muscle tear saw her ruled out of the tournament, but she has since returned with a bang domestically with the Glens: “I worked really hard through my rehab, but it was arguably a good thing for me that I missed that intense training running up to the Euros as it gave me a chance to rest and recuperate.
“I feel like I’m in the best shape physicality that I have been in a long time and missing the time that I have through injury has really driven me on – I am ultra-competitive!”
Glentoran Women enter into the final two rounds of league action four points behind leaders Cliftonville Ladies – with whom they have still to face.
While their hopes of retaining the league title now hang by a thread, Hamilton insists the player’s heads will not drop: “Until the league is mathematically impossible, we will believe we can win it. We are confident in our ability to win every game – we will fight until the end.
“Last season we were chasing early in the campaign and managed to turn the situation around, and we are ready to pounce if anything does happen – that is our mentality.
“We have lost key players this season both by transfers and injuries, but it is on the players and management to respond to that. We are the title holders and have been successful, so that is the challenge.
“I’ve had injury problems this season, Ali McMaster has had ankle surgery and Sam Kelly is still out with a knee injury – big players who really would strengthen our squad and give us that extra push.
“Then the girls who were at the Euros have obviously had a difficult campaign with the mentality and physical aspect they had to put into that – it was a challenging season for everyone.”
Glentoran host Linfield Ladies on Wednesday night and a victory – coupled with Cliftonville dropping points at Crusaders Strikers – would take the league title race down to the final day of the season, and a showdown between the top two.