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  • Writer's pictureBethany Barker

The Girls in Green: Unstoppable History Makers

The Republic of Ireland continues their impressive run with record-breaking attendance setting their Nations League campaign off to a great start.

Wednesday 27th September 2023

 

World Cup Debutants:

Before last year the Republic of Ireland had never qualified for a major tournament, the closest being in 2009 when they made it to the playoffs at the Euros only to be stopped by Iceland, however, after an impressive defensive display which saw Amber Barrett (Donegal native) score- what ultimately could be the most important goal in her career so far- in the seventy-second minute to secure the team's ticket to this Summer's tournament.

This summer the Girls in Green faced a challenging group as they entered the tournament as one of eight debutants, their first game being against co-hosts Australia in front of a record crowd of 75,784 with incredible support from fans. The debutants were able to put up a frustrating defence which caused the Matildas to only put one past Courtney Brosnan as Steph Cately converted a penalty; in her post-match interview, Cately praised Ireland stating, "We were nervy and probably didn’t play as calmly as we normally do and Ireland were fantastic. They put us under pressure, played their corners really well and fair play to them. There were nervy moments we will look to clean up further in the tournament."


Unfortunately for the Girls in Green, they struggled to gain a win in their group, exiting after a 2-1 loss to Olympic Champions, Canada, and a 0-0 draw against Nigeria but Veru Pauw- Republic manager- stated "I think we can be really proud" as she believes the defeat in the group stage was against, "Three top-10 nations, I've said it before I think Nigeria are a top-10 nation, and we've played equal games against them. We lost by a penalty [to Australia] an own-goal [to Canada] and now a draw. It is amazing."

Ireland's captain and Arsenal defender, Katie McCabe on her team's loss to Canada, which ultimately secured their exit this summer:

“It’s bittersweet, isn’t it. Of course, it’s nice to score and get us off to a good start but it’s the results that matter at this level and in these types of tournaments. I’m heartbroken for the girls because I think we deserved so much better from this game.”


Home Records:

Despite their early exit from this summer's tournament, the Republic of Ireland have had an amazing start to their Nations League campaign; on Saturday there was an Irish derby when the Girls in Green took on Northern Ireland at the Aviva Stadium (Dublin) in front of a record crowd. The game was the first women's game to be held at the Aviva Stadium and had an attendance of 35,944 which is the biggest in Irish women's football history, once again showing the growth the sport has had in recent times. The game was also a game of firsts for both teams' managers who both experienced their first games in charge:

Eileen Gleeson- Republic of Ireland's Interim head coach and Head of Women and Girls Football for the Football Association of Ireland.

Tanya Oxtobuy- Northern Ireland's manager who has recently left WSL side Chelsea where she was an assistant coach to Emma Hayes.


Saturday's game ended 3-0 to the Girls in Green after an impressive 90 minutes, although the first 20 minutes were relatively quiet the Republic of Ireland increased their do finance going further in the game; which left them with a 63% possession rate and 79% pass accuracy from 430 passes. The first goal came at 30 minutes when Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City midfielder) converted a corner with good pace after a deflection off Rachel Furness' header (N.Ireland) to place the ball in the top corner; this goal was the first women's goal in the stadium and showed the strength the team possesses in set pieces and converting goals from second phases. At 70 minutes San Diego Wave's forward, Kyra Carusa, responded to the poor defending of the Northern Irish by firing her shot past Turner (N.Ireland goalkeeper) who was pushing forward with the defenders. After Carusa eased the tension, Lily Agg- Birmingham City midfielder- sealed the home side's victory with an 85-minute low header, converted from McCabe's set piece corner, after just 3 minutes on the pitch.


Caitlin Hayes (Centre half who has recently been eligible to represent Ireland this international window) reflecting on Saturday's historic game and her debut: “The last 24 hours I’ve had I could never have dreamt of when I was a kid running around in those Ireland tops. I may not have the accent, but I know what it means to wear this badge and that’s something that I’ll fight for."


Unstoppable Away Form:

After an impressive victory at home, the Girls in Green faced Hungary- ranked 42nd in the world and sitting at 4 wins out of their last 5 games- where it only took 18 minutes for Caitlin Hayes to fire the visitors ahead; converting a pass from McCabe to a close-range header the defender created a good finish on her second appearance for the club. The lead was doubled after captain Katie McCabe fired a left foot strike from outside the box (25 yards) into the right side netting at 42 minutes; McCabe stated after the game it was an "angry finish" to give her team a comfortable start before half-time. The Arsenal defender has also been nominated for the Ballon d'Or which means she has made history once again as she becomes the first Irish female player to be nominated and the first Irish nominee since Roy Keane in 2000. McCabe scored Ireland's first and only goal in the World Cup from a set-piece corner (in the Canda game). After the half-time break, the goals resumed after Heather Payne crossed a weighted pass towards the back post where it was met by Kyra Carusa, whose second goal in the week came from a close-range header at 49 minutes. The last goal came at 70 minutes when the Hungarian defence was stretched again with a pull-back to Denise O'Sullivan- North Carolina Courage midfielder- from Carusa which allowed the midfielder to create a composed strike from the edge of the box, giving O'Sullivan her 19th international goal.


Player of the match Denise O'Sullivan reflected on the game saying: "It was very positive tonight. We are trying new things, different style of play and there are loads of positives out there. It just shows the team is coming together and we're really enjoying the football right now. Four different goalscorers, Caitlin [Hayes'] first goal tonight, so a lot of positives to take."

As it stands the Republic of Ireland now sits at the top of the Group E table with six points meaning they could advance to tier A if they continue their unbeaten run in this tournament, potentially getting them Euro qualification.


What Comes Next:

The Republic of Ireland's next games are:

27th October @ Tallaght Stadium against Albania

31st October @ Loro Boriçi Stadium against Albania

1st December against Hungary

5th December against Northern Ireland

Where they will aim to retain their top spot in their Nations League group.


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