Born in the small town of Bailieborough in County Cavan in April 1999, Leanne Kiernan excelled at cross country and Gaelic football as a schoolgirl before her maths teacher Bridgeen Harley introduced football at her school.
The forward, who grew up on a pig farm, also played for local boys’ team Kingscourt before earning a place in the Ulster provincial squad and joining the FAI’s Emerging Talent Programme.
At 15, Kiernan joined Shelbourne Ladies, training three times a week in Dublin while combining her football with her schoolwork.
That commitment paid off as the striker was capped by Ireland at U17 and U19 levels, scoring nine goals in ten competitive internationals, before making her senior debut against Wales in Newport in August 2016.
The same summer, Kiernan’s goals helped Shelbourne win the Women’s National League title, while her hat-trick secured the FAI Cup in November of the same year.
Into 2017 and the teenager appeared in all seven matches as Ireland made a spirited yet ultimately unsuccessful bid to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After completing her Leaving Certificate – Ireland’s equivalent of A-Level examinations – Kiernan also appeared for Shelbourne in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and left the club atop of the 2018 National League goalscoring charts.