The latest round of Women’s Super League fixtures was a poignant one for Brighton and Hove Albion.
Not only did the Seagulls once again cause an upset for reigning champions Chelsea, but goalkeeper Megan Walsh wrote a new piece of history.
Thanks to another stellar performance between the sticks, Brighton kept a clean sheet and came away with a point, but Walsh also became the first ever member of the WSL 500 club.
The 27-year-old is officially the first ever player to make 500 saves in England’s top flight.
After making five stops against Chelsea on Sunday, Walsh reached the never-seen-before milestone.
The achievement in itself is remarkable considering the amount of long-serving WSL goalkeepers over the years. But what is perhaps the most notable is that Walsh continues to be a player who criminally slips below the radar.
Building with Brighton
Over the last few seasons, Brighton have been steadily climbing the WSL table. Their maiden campaign in the top tier saw them finish ninth and they have continued to improve since.
Reading and Everton have often been branded ‘the best of the rest’ — a nod to their usual dominance of the middle of the table, but never quite breaking the mould of the top bracket.
Now, Brighton are also considered in this threshold and are still very much in contention for Champions League football.
They may be eighth in the table as it stands, but just six points separate them and Chelsea in third, and if this season is anything to go by, absolutely anything can happen in the fight for both the title and top three.
Last term, the Seagulls caused upset to both Manchester United and Chelsea, and they’ve once again snubbed the Blues of maximum points in their latest meeting.
Brighton as a whole have the capability of challenging these top sides, but kudos must fall to Walsh, who has shown time and time again she can deny some of the best forwards in the world.
This new era of English goalkeeper is an exciting one. For years, the Lionesses utilised the main trio of Karen Bardsley, Carly Telford, and Siobhan Chamberlain.
With the latter now retired and the others struggling for minutes at club level, younger players are being given opportunities to represent their country on the big stage.
Ellie Roebuck quickly became first choice for the Lionesses, while the likes of Sandy MacIver and Hannah Hampton have also been given opportunities in the senior set up.
Even 28-year-old Mary Earps, who admitted she thought her international career was over, has taken the No.1 spot in absence of Roebuck. The competition for a spot on the England roster as a goalkeeper has never been fiercer.
However, despite being stacked with talent between the sticks, England will surely rue not utilising Walsh when they had the chance.
After featuring for the Lionesses at youth level, her progress with the international set up stagnated. The Brighton star changed her allegiance to the Republic of Ireland, and was recently called up during the 2023 World Cup qualifiers.
While Walsh is still yet to be tried and tested in the senior squad, her potential on the international stage can only be assumed to be huge.
After reaching such an historic milestone, and one that the WSL has never seen before, any doubts over Walsh’s ability to handle pressure and perform in big matches are surely out the window.
The Brighton shot-stopper also has the fifth highest save percentage in the WSL this season at 74.2 percent, which is higher than any English goalkeeper in the league.
The Republic of Ireland are yet to qualify for a major tournament, but they are growing ever closer. Walsh could well play a part in this if she continues to impress at domestic level.