The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (2024)

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In The Journey to the Cup, The Athletic follows six players as they work towards a place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Follow along as we check in with them each month in the build-up to the tournament, tracking their progress as they prepare both mentally and physically for a chance to shine on the game’s biggest stage.

The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (1)

Until last October, the Republic of Ireland international Lily Agg had not visited the country she represents since she was a child.

Agg, who was born in Brighton on the south coast of England, used to go with her mum, Ruth, to Cobh, a seaport town on the south coast of Ireland, to see her maternal Irish grandmother Breda. Thanks to her, the former Arsenal player has recently been able to switch allegiance and represent the Republic of Ireland.


“I was a baby when we first visited,” Agg tells The Athletic. “My only memory was that it was so green.

“Whenever we’d stay in Cobh, we had to kneel by the side of the bed and say our prayers, holding our rosary beads. My grandma would say, ‘God bless Lady Diana, God bless those less fortunate’.”

Agg was 11 when her grandma died from cancer at the age of 60.

“It was a shock,” says Agg. “I wish I was older to have been able to help my mum. She misses her mum massively. My grandad still lives in Kent. He tried to distance himself from the memories of Grandma. They sold their holiday home and my mum didn’t want to go back. No one had been.”

The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (2)

Former Ireland international and Brighton & Hove Albion team-mate Sophie Perry pestered Agg more than 10 years ago to get her Irish passport.

“My mum always used to say, ‘Come on, Grandma will be so proud, you should do it’,” the 29-year-old says. “I never got round to it because I didn’t know how to get into the team.”

Fast forward to 2020 and the topic cropped up again when Lisa Fallon, Agg’s former manager at London City Lionesses, asked if she had any Irish connections.

“She got onto the phone to Ireland manager Vera Pauw,” she says, “and it just ended up happening.”

It was not a smooth process, however. “It was extremely long and painful,” says Agg. “My mum was keen until we needed Grandma’s birth certificate, my mum’s passport, eventually we got all the documents. It then came to the COVID-19 pandemic and everything was delayed.”

Agg finally made her Ireland debut in June last year and her international career has brought her closer to her immediate and extended family.

“Ireland really resonates with my mum and my grandma,” says Agg. “They are very similar. My mum followed in my grandma’s footsteps being a nurse. I remember her kindness and that soft selfless side my mum has. They had such a strong bond just like me and my mum. It makes me feel very close to my grandma.

“My mum is my world. It fills me with joy knowing how proud I’ve made her and how happy she is seeing me in an Ireland shirt. I know how sentimental that is for her with her mum.”

Representing Ireland has given Agg’s family a chance to reconnect. In October, her cousins gave her a tour of Cobh, including a visit to her grandma’s house.

“It’s like a new family,” says Agg. “It’s not that I didn’t know them but I’ve always done life without them. My mum made the decision to stop going to Ireland. We would have just carried on. Naturally, there was more of a reason to come together. We celebrate in honour of Grandma. We toasted to her.”


In February, the Irish clan made the return trip to watch Agg on her 50th club appearance against Sunderland in which she scored and was named player of the match.

Agg is keen to explore more of Ireland but the teacher has had to do homework of her own, including learning the national anthem.

“It was lots of YouTube,” she says. “Repetition, earphones in. I’m still not great but as a true part of the Irish culture, it’s something I wanted to learn.

“I find it funny because everyone, even the Irish, pronounces words with different Irish accents. The number of times I’ve stood singing the national anthem, you’ve got my accent and I think, ‘Have I pronounced that wrong?’, and then you’ll have people either side of me and I think, ‘They sound different as well’.”

The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (3)

Agg’s Irish family visit to watch her play for London City Lionesses

Agg’s Ireland shirts and her first physical cap are framed at home. She hopes to be part of a history-making team who last week climbed to their highest FIFA world ranking (No 22).

“All the girls have said about getting a tattoo of the shamrock before going to Australia,” she says. “I’d 100 per cent get it.”

It would add to Agg’s new tattoo, the date Ireland beat Scotland to qualify for the World Cup.

“11-10-22,” Agg reads. “It was the best day ever. It’s got to stay with me, it’s not every day you qualify for a World Cup.”

There is one other, inked on Agg’s wrist — a quote from the Bible handed down the generations from her grandmother to her mum to her: “To love is to give all of oneself.”

“My mum always jokes about saying her prayers for Grandma,” says Agg. “I’ve had a really good start to my Ireland career and have been very lucky and happy. My mum says it’s Grandma looking over me.”

The Journey to the Cup series is part of a partnership with Google Chrome.

The Athletic maintains full editorial independence. Partners have no control over, or input into, the reporting or editing process and do not review stories before publication.

The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (4)The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (5)

Charlotte Harpur is a football writer, specialising in women's football for The Athletic UK. She has been nominated for women's sport journalist of the year and previously worked on the news desk. Prior to joining, Charlotte was a teacher. Follow Charlotte on Twitter @charlotteharpur

The Journey to the Cup: Lily Agg and how she's becoming more Irish (2024)


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