It was a big week for the international side and the Women’s National League Returns.
Cailín in Green
Looking at the table, Irish eyes have to be smiling…
In 2017 the Irish women were forced to threaten strike action over the conditions they had to work in. Now Ireland have comfortably finished in second place in a qualifying group, are one of the best group runner-ups, and have only lost one game in doing so. That one game was a narrow loss to Sweden, who had just won an Olympic medal. A narrow 0-1 loss where Ireland had chances.
The Finland game postmatch scene saw celebrations, and rightfully so. In the subsequent games from other groups the results went the right way which meant Ireland’s path to the World Cup became somewhat clearer while still being needlessly complicated.
Coming into the Slovakia match the atmosphere was odd. Ireland had done what they needed in a huge game, but still had so much to play for. A win would mean Ireland could potentially get to the World Cup in one game, rather than 2. That being said, Ireland could have needed anywhere between 1 to 4 games to qualify, because it’s all a bit complicated (we’ll explain later).
Ireland got the win they needed. It wasn’t a particularly good game, and this Irish team is capable of much better performances. But sometimes you need to grind out a win on a tricky away day. The Slovakian’s offered more in the way of fouling than creating chances, but still, they had to be beaten. Denise O’Sullivan got the winning goal when she reacted to Jess Ziu’s ball. O’Sullivan read the play well and adjusted her position to get the crucial score.
That wasn’t it for the chances but it was it for the goals. A second or third would have made things less nervy, but a win was what was needed and it was achieved. Ireland were the better side and created a lot more so the 3 points were deserved.
Jess Ziu got the crucial assist, and she was very lively throughout. Ziu has long been touted as a future superstar. In the post match interview she said her focus now turns to putting in good performances at West Ham, where she recently moved. The winger has shown great composure and understanding of her position for such a young player. She is one of many talents in this side that would be particularly worthy of lighting up a World Cup.
The draw for the play-offs will be made on Friday. Ireland will be one of three teams that receive a bye to the second round. For baffling reasons that make no sense, that does not mean Ireland are guaranteed a draw against one of the six sides that will play a first round game. It really is all a bit confusing. So from here Ireland will either qualify after one game, or will need to play a further one or two games to qualify. We put together a guide for where Ireland go from here:
You would be forgiven if you have no idea what’s going on. Let’s just see what happens during the draw.
Next week we will take a look back at the full campaign and go through some of the big moments.
Women’s National League
With the international break over attention will turn to domestic matters. With six rounds to go the top two know if they win their remaining games they will be champions.
As It Stands…
Saturday 10th September Fixtures
Sligo Rovers vs Galway
The Showgrounds / 14:00
DLR Waves vs Athlone Town
UCD Bowl / 16:00
Treaty United vs Bohemians
Markets Field / 17:00
Wexford Youths vs Cork City
Ferrycarrig Park / 18:00
Shelbourne vs Peamount United
Tolka Park / 19:35
Shelbourne hosting Peamount is the standout tie. These games are usually highly unpredictable. Both have long been two of the top three sides in the league, but it hasn’t stopped these sides from occasionally putting a big score on the other. Last season Peas hammered Shels, this season it was the other way around. The league leaders have a few banana skins left in their run-in, and this is a major one. Peamount have had a disappointing season, but have bounced back in recent games and will be out to avenge their cup loss against this Saturday’s opponents.
DLR Waves and Athlone Town has become something of a mini-rivalry this season. Athlone are occupying the spot many felt Waves would be aiming for this year. Not only that, but the midlands side have beaten Waves twice so far. The first meeting between the sides suffered due to unnecessary rescheduling (it ended up being played on a Tuesday and neither side had had a training session since their last game). Athlone got the win through an unfortunate own goal. The most recent meeting saw the same victors, but a much more entertaining affair. This one could be one of the games of the season.
A Connacht derby is something we are not quite used to in this league yet, but Sligo will be looking to get one over on their provincial rivals. Bohs will be looking to keep pace in the race to finish in the top half when they face a Treaty United side without a win. Wexford Youths will know a win is a must against a resurgent Cork side to put pressure on the league leaders ahead of their game.
It’s always interesting to see how players away on international duty adapt to being back to the bread and butter of the league. The Ireland squad saw a total six players from the WNL travel.
- Eve Badana (DLR Waves)
- Jessie Stapleton (Shelbourne)
- Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United)
- Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths)
- Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths)
- Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne)
Of those only Molloy saw game time, coming on against Slovakia. The highs of being in camp will have been exhilarating for all six, especially for the achievements involved. Now it remains to be seen if it’s difficult to return to focusing on the games this weekend without having October 11th in mind.
Realistically I don’t think it will be an issue in terms of mentality. All those players will know that if they want to make that squad for the play-offs they need to keep performing. It is, however, possible that fatigue could play a role.
Across the Water
With the English Women’s Super League returning, there is plenty of Irish interest involved. Most of the players in the squad play in England, whether it’s the top or second tier, and Vera Pauw will be keeping a close eye on who gets consistent game time. Leanne Kiernan had a super year last season for Liverpool who achieved promotion to the WSL. She is one to keep an eye on as she tries to force her way into the Ireland starting XI.
Make sure you follow @PostToPostSport on Twitter and Instagram. If you enjoyed this WNL Blast please consider contributing to our fundraiser for Ireland’s National Autism Charity. All season we have been doing different fundraiser charities for to raise money for and awareness of As I Am. You can read all about our challenges so far and why we are doing this on our fundraiser page here. And you can contribute to the fundraiser on our iDonate here.