Focus is key for Ireland Women’s Under 17s in opener
It’s crunch time for the Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 17s as they prepare to open their UEFA European Championship campaign in Turner’s Cross on Wednesday night and they look ready for action.
Dave Bell’s team will act as hosts to Faroe Islands in the first of three Qualifying Round games but it is unlikely that they will be too gracious considering a route to the Elite Round is at stake.
Having assembled a talented squad, Bell now has the difficulty of selecting his starting XI for the opening game. Luckily, though, he will be able to call on players who are fully focused on the task at hand.
Just ask midfielders Tiegan Ruddy and Megan Mackey, who speak with the type of professionalism that confirms they are aware of the challenge ahead but also ready to embrace it.
“We will focus on the first game, against Faroe Islands, and hopefully we can do enough to win that and make a statement that we want to get to the finals,” said Mackey.
Those finals will take place next summer in Czech Republic and Ruddy believes that they can thrust themselves into contention for a place in that tournament should they stick together as a unit.
“I think we all click, on and off the pitch, and that definitely helps us because we all want the same thing – to qualify for the finals. But we know that we have to focus on the first game and win that before anything else,” said Ruddy.
A slick passing, intelligent footballer, Ruddy has excelled over the last two years for Sharon Boyle’s Under 16 team and with Peamount United in the Continental Tyres Women’s National League.
The Celbridge native was also a key player for Bell’s U17s last year when they came so close to reaching the finals. She admits to being motivated by that near miss and wanting to use the experience in a positive way.
For Mackey, a Crawley-born attacking midfielder who qualifies through her Limerick-born father, it is a similar mindset. She has made the step up to the U17s but now wants to play her part in helping Ireland to march forward.
The duo are excited by the opportunity of playing their games in Turner’s Cross, which brought the U17s team luck in 2015 when they qualified for the finals, but they are taking nothing for granted.
“There will be a great buzz playing at home and pride does come into it too as we don’t want to be beaten at home. But we won’t underestimate Faroe Islands and we will focus on doing what we have to do to get the win,” said Ruddy.
Spoken like season professionals, Ruddy and Mackey represent a squad that is young in years but wise in footballing knowledge – thanks largely to Bell’s clever coaching, assistant Laura Cusack’s insightful advice, and the invaluable work from the rest of the backroom staff.
As they prepare to kickstart their qualifying campaign – which will also see them take on Belarus and Iceland – Ireland are focused on making that first step count.
Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 17s squad
Goalkeepers: Erica Turner, Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne Ladies)
Defenders: Aoife Lynagh, Lucia Lobato (Salthill Devon), Lauryn Grier (Kentstown Rovers), Sadhbh Doyle, Rachel Baynes (Galway WFC), Tara Mannix (Cork City WFC), Orla Casey (Evergreen)
Midfielders: Tiegan Ruddy, Doireann Fahey, Chloe Singleton (Peamount United), Alannah McEvoy (Enniskerry), Tyler Toland (Maiden City), Megan Mackey (Chelsea Ladies)
Forwards: Heather Payne, Carla McManus (Peamount United), Isibeal Carolan (Enniskerry)
Wednesday, October 26: Republic of Ireland v Faroe Islands, Turner’s Cross, KO 19:00
Friday, October 28: Republic of Ireland v Belarus, Turner’s Cross, KO 19:00
Monday, October 31: Republic of Ireland v Iceland, Turner’s Cross, KO 19:00
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