Having been tagged as the ‘best-uncapped player in the country’, Gilly Flaherty was unsure if that name would stick with her for the rest of her career even though she had achieved so much. Luckily for her, her hard work and efforts were finally rewarded in 2015 with her first England cap. Since then she has gone from strength to strength in proving to everyone why she deserves to be the first name on the team sheet every weekend.
London-born Flaherty started football at a young age; she was already a junior player for Millwall Lionesses at the age of nine. Once she was thirteen, Flaherty went on to a trial at Arsenal Ladies, her potential shone through as she impressed and was signed by the Gunners. Her rise through the ranks at Arsenal was rapid and at fifteen she had already been given her senior debut in the League Cup against Birmingham City Ladies.
At the time, Arsenal were the most dominant team in Women’s Football and Flaherty ended up becoming an integral part of the club’s triumphs. She played her part in contributing to the Arsenal juggernaut who amassed a countless number of trophies. Flaherty spent seven years with Arsenal and in that time the centre back won the FA Cup five times, the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2007, the Women’s top division on four occasions and the WSL twice. Flaherty even has the distinction of scoring the inaugural WSL goal in the first ever match in the newly formed league for Arsenal versus her future club Chelsea.
In 2014, Flaherty made the switch from North London to West London as she joined Chelsea in the deal that also brought Katie Chapman with her. This double swoop was a coup for Chelsea as they brought in a winning mentality and title-winning experience. Flaherty was quickly made vice-captain and showed her leadership on the pitch as she was at the centre of Chelsea’s fantastic defensive record.
Flaherty has been likened to John Terry in the way she always puts her body on the line to ensure her team doesn’t concede, she is also very useful at the other end of the pitch and has come up with some important goals for the Blues. She scored six goals in her second season at Chelsea and in her third season, Flaherty got the winner in the 2016 FA Cup final against Liverpool.
In 2015, after leading Chelsea to the WSL title, there were calls for the 24-year-old to get her first cap for England. She had put together a stunning record of six league titles, six FA Cup wins and a UEFA Cup, played 28 times for England at all the youth levels, yet that first senior cap eluded her. Five years after her final U23s appearance for England, she was finally given what she deserved as she was called up to the England squad and played in a friendly versus China.
Now 26, Flaherty’s next challenge will be to outperform her competition and become one of the key members of future England squads. With Chelsea doing so well and Flaherty being a cornerstone of that success, it will only be a matter of time.