Nervous faces attempting to look stoic enter the pitch through the tunnel for the girls in green. A look of the weight of a countries footballing fandom is visible on every Irish players faces. That contrasts completely with the Germans. They’ve been there done that. They had virtually qualified before a ball had been kicked in the campaign. They will be one of the favorites for the EURO’s. Two stats sum up the game: Ireland have never qualified for a major tournament. Germany have only had one loss in their last 26 matches, a World Cup Quarter Final against Sweden.
Ireland play a 1-3-4-1-2, as do Germany. The Tallaght Stadium pitch has been made smaller. 5 changes for Germany from their 3-0 home win against Ireland. Chelsea’s Berger makes her debut.
The opening 10 minutes is unsettling for Irish eyes, which certainly aren’t smiling. The Germans aren’t holding back, they’ve had two corners from the left in the first 4 minutes. Ireland begin to get some ball, but have to fight for everything.
20 minutes in Germany get a penalty. It was smart by Huth if dishonest. She nipped past Katie McCabe but left her leg there to be caught. Absolutely a dive. A penalty won more than one given away. Magull steps up, Grace Moloney dives the right way but the ball goes past her. 0-1. It’s a long way back.
On the other side of things Ukraine and Montenegro are drawing. A Montenegro win would send Ireland through. As things stand Ireland and Ukraine both have 13 points, with Ukraine going through on head to head. Realistically a win here is a must.
It’s 0-2 not too long after. The Germans are sharp, pinging the ball around effortlessly. Grace Moloney makes a super save, but the Germans recover. Wabmuth finds the net. Ireland were too deep, Moloney couldn’t see through the wall of green. At this stage it feels as though this game will be similar to the reverse fixture, Germany getting the job done in the first half.
44 minutes in Ireland have a first clear cut chance. Heather Payne finds herself alone on the edge of the box, plays in Denise O’Sullivan, who is fouled. Penalty given. Suddenly we could have a game on. This is when you need to score, just before halftime. Katie McCabe steps up. She missed the penalty against Ukraine. Captain McCabe makes no mistake this time. 1-2. Suddenly now Ireland are back in it. The halftime whistle goes moments later.
Dzsenifer Marozsan, four time Champions League winner, comes on for Germany. They aren’t easing up. Germany hit the crossbar, while in the other game Montenegro have a player sent off.
At the hour-mark Ireland are in the game, but Germany are still on top. The German’s have had plenty of chances, Ireland have had a look in but just can’t take advantage. It feels like Ireland are doing more chasing after the ball than creating with it.
Ireland have had chances. Three consecutive corners offers their best platform. The amount of changes Germany have made seems to have had an impact on them. Crucially Ukraine take the lead against Montenegro with 16 minutes to go. Ireland need to win now. Ellen Molloy comes on. The 16-year-old sensation has lit up the Women’s National League this season.
On the 85th minute Germany turn on the style. They haven’t been particularly good this half, but It’s a super strike from Wabmuth. 1-3. Ireland would need 3 goals to get through. Heads go down.
Straight up the other end Denise O’Sullivan wins a corner. It feels like there has to be a goal here. It’s ultimately cleared and the ball back in comes to nothing. Ireland keep pushing, Germany keep threatening on the counter-attack.
A campaign that started so well ends in 3 consecutive defeats. The away games against Ukraine and Greece killed Ireland. That 93rd minute equalizer in Athens, and that defeat in Ukraine where Ireland just couldn’t find the net.
There’s plenty of positives in that performance. Grace Moloney showed she should be Ireland’s number 1. Hopefully the friendlies next year can be used to give the new faces more time again.
Ultimately, Ireland’s wait for a first major tournament appearance goes on.