“All I ever knew was that I wanted to work in football”

By Stephen Leonard

NEWLY appointed London City Lionesses Head Coach, Lisa Fallon, spoke to The Echo Sports Editor, Stephen Leonard about growing up in Clondalkin and her rise through the sport of soccer to eventually take charge of the new FA Women’s Championship outfit.

A former player with Round Towers GAA Club, Lucan United and Leixlip United, the UEFA Pro Licence holder has worked with the Northern Ireland International squad, Cork City and most recently with Chelsea as the Game Analyst & Strategy Coach on the women's team's technical coaching staff.

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Clondalkin woman Lisa Fallon is ready for the next challenge in her career after her appointment as Head Coach of FA Women’s Championship side London City Lionesses

Now Fallon, who was also a part of the backroom set-up with the Dublin Mens football team  in 2018, is relishing the prospect of taking charge of the Lionesses after what has been a long road in reaching this stage of her career.

 Where are you from?

I grew up in Clondalkin, in Bawnogue. The fields there between the canal and Lindisfarne Park were the field of dreams for me as a kid. That was where I was out kicking my first football.

I grew up there, but my grandparents were in Palmerstown so we spent a lot of time there, but my grandad’s family are all from Clondalkin.

His dad, my great grandfather, was the station master in the old Clondalkin train station house so that was the family home before it got knocked.

Gerry Fallon, my grandad’s brother and my great uncle, would have been the President of Round Towers GAA. Gerry actually passed away during his presidency of Towers and it was around that time that I started playing camogie for Towers.

I played [soccer] first with Lucan Community College and then Pauline and Tony Blunt had a girls team at Lucan United so I was playing there. Then I moved to Leixlip United and I would have played with Emma Byrne and that took me up to before I went to England to go to Uni’.

Was a career in soccer something you always wanted?

When I was a kid I always wanted to play professional football or manage. All I ever knew was all wanted to work in football. That was always the ambition.

I ended up having a career in sports reporting because I thought that was probably the only way I could work in football as a female.

But gradually, as circumstances changed and opportunities came my way, it just took me on a path. It's almost been quite a natural road, it's been a long road, over a decade now.

I never set myself a target, saying that's what I want to do. I was always conscious to stay very present in the moment that I was in and really focus on the job that I was doing and be the best that I could be.

And, as a result of that, it's ended up that I've had a series of progressions in my career and now this is the latest one.

Because it took the time that it did and I've had the experience that I've had, I really think all of those elements will stand to me now as I embark on this new phase.

How does it feel to have been appointed Head Coach of the London City Lionesses?

It feels great. It’s a really proud day for my family because they’ve been on the journey as much as I have, so it’s really exciting.

It's been lovely. I've been getting great messages. They're all really proud.

My family have played a huge role, I couldn't even tell you how much of an important role my family have had in this whole journey and the level of support they have given me and how they've facilitated me to do this work.

Hopefully for all the 60ths and 40ths and the anniversary parties that I've missed through the years, through clashing with matches, hopefully this is a day that can make them proud, and hopefully I can continue to do that for them.

It’s something I always wanted to do and now to have the opportunity, it’s great and I just really can’t wait until we can get out on the grass and get back to training once it’s safe to do so.

How difficult is it taking over the team in these difficult times, with so many restrictions in place?

It’s not the normal circumstances, but I think you have to be able to adapt and just maximise what you can do.

There’s plenty of time now, I’m able to watch games, I’m able to speak to the players, I’m getting opportunities to recruit because it’s a busy time for recruitment as well and, now that we know that we’re going straight into a new season when we do go back, we have the opportunity now to really plan pre-season and focus on that.

So it’s very, very busy, it’s not quiet by any stretch of the imagination.

During your career so far, you’ve held coaching and opposition-analyst posts mostly in men’s teams. Has that presented challenges for you as a woman?

That’s all I knew, was working in men’s football. That’s where I developed, that’s where I grew because it’s where I worked. It wasn’t different for me, because it was just normal. That was my job, that was my role and that was the environment I was in.

For me to work in that environment was normal and for the players and the coaching staff I was working with, whilst it might have been novel at the start to have a female around, it very quickly just became normalised and it wasn’t even an issue.

It certainly has its challenges for sure, but that’s part of the journey, that’s where you learn about yourself, learn about values and learn about the type of environments you’re going to work in.

It develops you as a person. I had really good coaches and really good mentors in every environment that I worked in. I found new challenges and new experiences and I got to work with different people.

I think it will stand me in great stead. I hope to draw on all of those experiences now.

How has working at Chelsea helped prepare you for your role as Head Coach at LCL?

When I finished up with Cork City last year I went to work with Chelsea. That year with Chelsea meant that I was in a full-time professional environment, in a really excellent set-up, working with female players at the highest level of the game in the UK, international level players and obviously a really excellent coaching staff.

It was a top-quality environment. That year, learning about all the players in the two divisions will, now that I've made this change, stand me in great stead.

It's been a great learning opportunity for me and great preparation for this.

Do you feel working as an Opposition and Games Strategy analyst has equipped you with an additional skill for your new post?

The work that you do on the opposition and the analysis that you do on your own team's performances is an important part of what you do, but it is still a small enough part of what you do.

Obviously we'll have our own identity, it's very much how we want to play, it's how the culture and ambition of our team will be.

But it is a very important part of it I think, all that experience.

But it was a natural progression for me, that's probably the level at which I went into professional football.

And then gradually as I improved and developed, I gained more coaching experience and I was put into different environments and then my skill set developed as a result of being exposed to more elements of the management function within professional football, so all of that experience definitely stands you in good stead.

And also my time with the Dublin GAA team as well.

To go into a different set-up, a different sport and experience another elite performing environment was really beneficial to me.

Can the Lionesses make a serious push for the FA Women’s Championship title in the coming seasons?

They’re an ambitious club and the chairwoman, Diane Culligan has great ambitions and a fabulous vision for the club. That’s something I really connected with.

I’m really fortunate that I have Mellissa Phillips in as the assistant coach. She’s excellent. She’s real quality and has great experience in the US and I think she brings an extra dimension to the coaching staff.

There’s the players themselves, they’re ambitious. In talking to them, they have great belief. They have real ambition too and they’re prepared to work for that so I’m very excited about the team and there’s so much potential there and that’s a great thing to have.

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