Denise O’Sullivan may have left the North Carolina Courage locker room in September, but she continues to make progress halfway around the world in England’s growing Women’s Super League on loan with Brighton & Hove Albion Women.
With Ireland still vying for a place at the European Championships in 2022, his loan transfer to England was heavily influenced by navigating various quarantine travel rules. Moving to Brighton until the end of the year meant she could play for the national team without having to self-quarantine – which would have been a formality if she had stayed in the United States.
At Brighton, her transition to the squad was made easier by fellow Republic of Ireland international players Megan Connolly and Rianna Jarrett.
His Brighton debut was a tough test – against one of the league’s best sides at Manchester City. A team that finished second in the league last season, including former Courage teammate and midfielder Sam Mewis, as well as US international Rose Lavelle. A rookie among the substitutes, O’Sullivan was introduced at halftime and helped Brighton record a very impressive 0-0 draw.
In her next match, a Women’s FA Cup quarter-final against Birmingham City, O’Sullivan scored her first goal for Brighton. With Birmingham ahead 2-1 in the dying moments of the game, the 26-year-old headed the goalkeeper in the last minute to send the game into overtime. After another 30 scoreless minutes, the game ended in a penalty shootout with O’Sullivan falling on the losing side.
The next few matches saw O’Sullivan and Brighton face tough opponents, both in the league and in competition. The Irish international played all 90 minutes, as his side were beaten 3-0 by Manchester United, before losing on penalties in the Continental Cup to West Ham. A 5-0 loss to Arsenal was the next game.
Brighton ended their league losing streak in their next game, with O’Sullivan playing the entire game as they drew 2-2 at Everton. But she couldn’t help the team as they were beaten by Aston Villa. O’Sullivan’s side finally found their way back to WSL victory on their away trip to West Ham, with Jarrett scoring the only goal of the game as Brighton won 1-0. Her most recent appearance for Brighton was in the Continental Cup, as a 56th-minute substitute as her side were knocked out of the competition after a 2-0 loss to Reading.
Speaking to Brighton earlier in the season, O’Sullivan commented on his adaptation to the English game and looked at the differences between the WSL and the NWSL. She said: “The quality of the leagues is similar, but the style of play is quite different. It’s a lot more technical here and it’s very physical – there’s always a battle in the middle of the park. In the US it’s a lot more about the transition game, it’s top to bottom, very athletic, I would say those are the main differences.
The end of the year will see O’Sullivan return to North Carolina and be part of Courage’s roster for the 2021 season.