As ideal a weekend for the Republic of Ireland senior women’s soccer team as their debut appearance at the Aviva Stadium yielded a comfortable three nil win over a Northern Ireland who are starting to rebuild under new management.
The narrative in the lead up to this inaugural Nations League fixture was Vera Pauw. Diane Caldwell’s assessment of the contribution of the Dutch manager gave the media hordes plenty of free column inches midweek. The comments though challenged the team to deliver a performance against Northern Ireland and the performance ticked plenty of checkboxes.
A marquee appearance at the Aviva Stadium for the current senior team. The behind closed doors for veterans senior players does little to appease FAI public relations exercise with the women’s game. There should have been a ceremony before the match to recognise the women who played for their country in the last fifty years. A big opportunity missed by the FAI.
Eileen Gleeson on the touchline as an interim manager but the team were keen to play their football to feet. Toland who was frozen out of the Vera Pauw era linked play well and deservedly secured the player of the match accolade. Her cameo allowing Denise O’Sullivan to advance further up the pitch.
Northern Ireland to their credit did start the brighter. Tanya Oxtoby can view this as a positive as Northern Ireland competed well for the first twenty minutes. Their defensive shape was solid for long periods of the game. The team worked hard but once Lucy Quinn’s deflected shot went in past Shannon Hunter just before half-time, the result was never in doubt.
Republic of Ireland were comfortable but the second goal remained elusive until a defensive mix up in the Northern Ireland provided Kyra Carusa the opportunity to score which was reward for a hard working display up top. Carusa unlucky not to score before her goal. I would like to see the side evolve with someone like Amber Barrett playing alongside Carusa in future to increase our final threat.
The third goal was an excellent header from Lily Agg who impressed off the bench. Katie McCabe a class apart on the flank. This was a routine win but one to showcase the side and their skill set against an opposition who are in rebuild mode. A clean sheet secured, top of their group standings.
Eileen Gleeson and team travel to Hungary this week to secure a second win in the Nations League. Hungary come into this fixture with a 1-1 draw against Albania. The track record for Hungary has been mixed. Finland hit Hungary for eight earlier in the year albeit they are unbeaten in six games post that Finnish mauling (five wins, one draw).
Hungary deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation against Albania and needed a late equaliser from Evelin Fenyvesi to secure a share of the spoils. If Republic of Ireland are looking to evolve further in their game plan and performance post Vera Pauw, a win is required here.