Pomurje Beltinci v Hibernian: Rachael Boyle has Champions League & Scotland dream
Eighteen months ago Rachael Boyle's dream of playing at a World Cup had been rekindled. Four years in the international wilderness was ended with a call-up from Shelley Kerr, and three caps later she was narrowing her sights on being on the plane to France.
Then came pregnancy and the birth of her daughter. Priorities changed and the World Cup was no longer a realistic prospect.
However, Boyle insists she could not be happier. She has taken to motherhood with the same vigour that won her 31 caps for her country, Hibernian stand on the brink of qualification to the last 32 of the Champions League, and, at 27, Boyle believes she can earn a place in the national team again.
"Obviously I was very disappointed at having to be ruled out of the World Cup selection," Boyle told BBC Scotland. "But it was one of these things and I would never change my family for anything.
"I've never ruled myself out so hopefully in years to come I can get back into the Scotland squad. I'm not expecting anything. I'm just playing my game, trying to get my fitness back, my sharpness back, and getting back to the player I was a few seasons ago before the pregnancy and the injuries.
"Having a family is tiring and having to get up and train and rush back for bedtime routines for my daughter, it is difficult, but it's a challenge I'm really enjoying."
- What happens when football gets in the way of real life?
- Champions League dream got Williamson through injury
- Hibs hold off Cardiff fight back to close in on last 32
Keeping the fans excited
Hibernian are currently in Slovenia for the Women's Champions League qualifying group stage. They followed up a 3-0 win over Georgians Tbilisi Nike on Wednesday by edging out Cardiff Met 2-1 three days later. Just a draw against hosts Pomurje Beltinci on Tuesday will secure a place in the knockout stage and put them in with the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City.
An added challenge for Boyle is being away from her daughter, while husband and fellow Hibs midfielder Martin struggles after having an operation on his knee. A week has felt like a year, with Rachael missing an early milestone for baby Amelia.
But she is determined to get a result against Pomurje so her daughter will experience a Champions League night at Easter Road.
"Everyone has been really supportive allowing me to come out here and be a part of this journey with the team," said Boyle. "I've been on Facetime every day to her. I'm missing her now but hopefully I can go home and tell her that we've qualified and maybe bring her to Easter Road for the next round. She's actually learnt to crawl while I've been away.
"We were watching Pomurje against FC Nike and we were comparing them to the way we played against FC Nike. They obviously scored more goals than we did against them, so we know they've got threats there and we do feel they were disappointed with themselves against Cardiff so they've obviously not performed to the best of their abilities.
"We can't really look that far ahead to the last 32 yet, but I experienced it against Bayern a couple of years ago. I was injured at the time, I was fighting to get back fit, and to be honest I probably shouldn't have played the game at Easter Road, but it was just one of those where you're determined to get back and compete against the best teams in the world.
"If we do qualify it's something we're very much looking forward to, maybe attracting a big name back to Easter Road and get the fans out on the back of the World Cup, and obviously keep the fans excited and give them something to cheer about."