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The whispers started to spread from quite early. The parents and volunteers who would turn up to Thomastown United in Kilkenny on the weekend mornings gathered together in small huddles to discuss the same topic.

Have you seen Ellen Molloy play?

It was the most important question to ask anyone who entered into United Park. If the answer was no, then the person would be politely ushered forward to get a sideline view of one of the most talented players in Irish football.

That sort of chatter started early in Molloy's development at her hometown club, but it quickly spread as she excelled in Primary School, Secondary School and Gaynor Cup competitions. All of a sudden this local star was shining on a national scale. And it's why Wexford Youths took notice.

Always on the look-out for emerging talents from neighbouring counties, Wexford have a rich history of transforming youngsters into players capable of performing in the Women's National League. Molloy was invited to train with the team at the age of 15.

By the time she had gone viral due to her superb goal for the Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s, Wexford boss Tom Elmes knew that she was ready for first-team action. Even though she was only 16 at the time, she was promoted to Wexford's squad for the 2020 season.

Sink or swim? It was never going to be either for Molloy - she's too good to react like normal players do. Molloy was the star performer in her WNL debut - against Bohemians - and even got on the scoresheet. Any trepidation that Elmes might have had prior to the game quickly disappeared as he watched a phenomenal player step up to the highest level in the country without any problems.

Oh, and she was named as the Young Player of the Year for that debut season.

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John Flood is someone who knows talent when he sees it. He was the man responsible for capturing Stephanie Roche's FIFA Puskas-nominated goal on camera and helped turn Kylie Murphy into one of the best players in League history.

Flood is no longer on the sidelines with Wexford, but he is a regular attendee at Ferrycarrig Park in his role as part of the scouting network that monitors all players in the League.

"Ellen's impact on the WNL has been immediate and immense since she arrived on the scene last season. An unassuming youngster, who has a gift that if nutured & guided could be world class," said Flood.

"Ellen has a low centre of gravity, quick feet, a gifted left foot but is also capable on her right, with a eye for goal & vision to pick a pass, her enthusiasm & eagerness to learn from the experienced players around her is very refreshing. She reminds me of a young Denise O'Sullivan in the early years of the WNL.

"Ellen's youthful enthusiasm and eagerness to work and learn, are clear signs of a determined young player loving her football. Ellen is one of many young players now energising the League, which compliments the maturing & experienced players who have been in the League for many years. Ellen is a player you'd be happy to pay to see play."

Those views are shared by another former Wexford manager, Will Doyle, who recognised her incredible ability when she was just 11 years old.

Now that Molloy is into her second season in the League - fresh from scoring four times against Treaty United - Doyle reckons she is quickly establishing herself as one of the best in the domestic game.

 

"She has a fantastic attitude to learning and is incredibly mature beyond her years.Some players will coast through games but Ellen is majorly involved in all facets of the game with her robust defending and work-rate is sometimes overlooked due to her ability to pick out extraordinary passes and score exceptional goals," said Doyle, who is a Regional High Performance Coach with the FAI.

"At 16 years of age, she is already one of the most outstanding players to have ever played in the WNL, in my opinion.

"She joined our Under-12 Girls Centre of Excellence in Bunclody at 11 and had a mesmerising ability on the football. We offered her father the opportunity to challenge her further by progressing her to the Under-14 squad as her actions on the ball were so good that she could dribble from one end of the pitch to the other and score.

"Her father and Ellen agreed so when she stepped up to the Under-14s she was still able to dribble past everyone, even then it was obvious that she was a special talent."

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Okay, we've established that she is a gifted player but what exactly makes her so much better than her peers? Composure is probably the best word to use in answer to that. She is composed with the ball at her feet, when in high pressure situations, and in her approach to contributing to a game.

Almost like an electric car, Molloy sneaks up on defenders when they have even heard the pattern of her footsteps across the ground. She glides across the pitch and knows when to allow the ball to do the work. Clever players do that and she is already showing the type of game intelligence that most do not achieve until the peak of their careers.

Of course, Molloy is the subject of this profile and countless posts across social media because she scores goals. If she were just another playmaker with excellent technique then the hype machine would not be activiated as often as it currently is with the Kilkenny native. The fact that she scores goals - and important ones too - indicates that she is indeed something special.

It is why she already has four Republic of Ireland Women's National Team caps. It is why the best clubs around the world will downloading her clips from WyScout (we'd recommend a subscription with LOITV - it's FREE). And it is why managers, past & present, run out of compliments whenever watching her in full flow.

Molloy's best position on the pitch will undoubtedly become a debate, especially when she starts to push for a starting spot with Ireland. Able to operate anywhere across the midfield, she can fit in almost anywhere. But the key to unlocking her masterful technique is by affording her freedom to roam and break forward.

With an eagerness to keep on learning, it is scary to think just how good she can become.