Byrne eager for Istria Cup challenge
The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team have arrived in Croatia with captain Emma Byrne eagerly looking forward to the team’s first appearance at the Istria Cup.
Ireland are one of 12 teams taking part in the week-long tournament and will play Hungary, Slovakia and Austria in Group A to determine which of the positional positions they will be playing for on March 11, the final day of the tournament.
With a record 113 caps, and the only player in the 21 strong squad over 30 years of age, Byrne is very much the veteran of the team but she is relishing the prospect of playing with the four members of last year’s successful U19 squad who have made the step up to the senior squad for this tournament.
“They are getting younger and younger and it is great to see them coming through. The talent is certainly improving and you can see the players are better than before. It is great to see that the standard is improving and that can only be good for us,” said Byrne.
This will be a strange week for Byrne after the Women’s National Team’s long-time goalkeeping coach and assistant manager, Gerard Dunne, moved to join Martin O’Neill’s backroom team as video analyst to senior men’s team.
“Ger will be missed,” she admits. “I have worked with him for a number of years and he is one of the best goalkeeping coaches I have ever worked with. It’s a new adventure for him and we wish him well. As senior goalkeeper I will have to step up now and have a bigger influence on the younger girls coming through but I am looking forward to that.”
March is traditionally tournament time within the women’s international football calendar as national squads gather in different spots around Europe for match practice. Having previously played at the Algarve Cup and the Cyprus Cup, Byrne is looking forward to Ireland making its debut at the Istria Cup, which is only in its third year.
“I am really excited about this cup. It is a new adventure for us, we are playing new teams and it’s a great time of the year to get together as a squad and continue our preparations for the European Championship qualifiers which start in September.”
Over the past two years Ireland have been steadily improving under manager Sue Ronan and have climbed into the top 30 in the World Rankings after finishing sixth at last year’s Cyprus Cup and third behind Germany and Russia in their World Cup qualifying group. Such improvement brings new expectations but, having enjoyed tremendous success at Arsenal over the years, Byrne is well able to deal with them.
“We are usually the underdogs so it will be interesting to go into games with different things expected of us. It is something we are not used to but we are looking forward to it as it is a new challenge and part of our development as a team. Personally, no matter what game I have gone into, with Arsenal or Ireland, I look, as an individual player, to put in 100 per cent in every game I play. That is always the challenge no matter who you are playing for or who you are playing against. I always want to win every game.”
All 21 players selected by Ronan have reported for duty and they will open their campaign on Wednesday against Hungary. The squad includes Emma Beckett who has just signed for Norwegian side Amazon Grimstad.
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team Squad for Istria Cup 2015
Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United).
Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC), Lauren Dwyer (Raheny United), Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Aine O’Gorman (UCD Waves), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United).
Emma Beckett (Amazon Grimstad), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City), Sarah Rowe (Raheny United), Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves).
Megan Connolly (College Corinthians), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Katie McCabe (Raheny United), Fiona O’Sullivan (Notts County), Stephanie Roche (Houston Dash).
Ireland’s Istria Cup 2015 Schedule
March 4 – Group A: Republic of Ireland v Hungary, Poreč, 10:30 (Irish time).
March 6 – Group A: Slovakia v Republic of Ireland, Umag, 10:30 (Irish time).
March 9 – Group A: Republic of Ireland v Austria, Rovinj, 13:00 (Irish time).
March 11 – Positional Play-off (TBC).
The WSU Team bringing you news and updates from the world of women’s football.