Ireland Women’s Under 17s fall to narrow defeat to France

The Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 17s fell to a narrow defeat to France in the opening match of their UEFA Women’s U17 Championships in Iceland.

A late goal from Emelyne Laurent ultimately settled the contest despite Dave Connell’s team playing some excellent football and pushing the tempo right to the end in their Group B clash.

Led out by captain Jamie Finn, Ireland set up in a 4-3-3 system and set about winning the game with Eleanor Ryan Doyle and Saoirse Noonan going close to scoring, but they just couldn’t find that goal.

“We’re disappointed with the result. I thought the performance was very hardworking and there were some very good individual performances. As a team, we could do a bit better,” said Connell after the game.

“We’re not out of it. We’ll dust ourselves down, get the girls motivated, regroup and try to get a good result on Thursday (against Switzerland) and put ourselves back in the mix.”

Moving the ball swiftly in passing exchanges and clever movement — particularly from the midfield trio of Noonan, Evelyn Daly, and Roma McLaughlin — Ireland were able to stretch their opponents in key areas.

France, though, are a very good team and they showed an eagerness to shoot on sight of the goal. From early on in the game, they rained shots down on Amanda McQuillan’s goal but the shot-stopper was on high alert.

When they did manage to sneak in behind the Ireland backline, which was brilliantly marshaled by Finn and Chloe Moloney, there was McQuillan in their way. Diving down to her right, she superbly denied forward Estelle Laurier.

Connell made a tactical switch at the break by bringing forward Sarah McKevitt on for Courtney Higgins and switching Jessica Nolan to left-back. It was a positive move and gave Ireland added speed on the left flank.

France continued to press forward and unloaded shots from distance, but McQuillan was equal to them. In front of her, however, the Irish defence stood firm and made a number of important blocks and interceptions.

When the goal did arrive for France, it was unfortunate for Ireland as Laurent headed past McQuillan during an aerial clash following a free-kick forward by Sandrine Soubeyrand’s team.

Strong tackling from Fiona Donnelly, tireless running from the midfielders, and link play from Aislinn Meaney meant Connell’s side were never truly out of the contest but they couldn’t get that goal back.

The focus will now switch to Thursday’s game against Switzerland, where a victory would propel Ireland back into contention for a place in the semi-finals.

Republic of Ireland: McQuillan; Donnelly, Finn, Moloney, Higgins (McKevitt h-t); Daly, McLaughlin, Noonan; Meaney, Ryan Doyle (Payne 69), Nolan (Prior 52).

France: Lebastard; Laplacette, Piga, Galera, Ollivier; Gavory, Ould Braham (Bodain 68); Laurent, Boutaleb (Ferocq 55), Katoto; Laurier (Ringenbach 47).

Referee: Vivian Peeters (Netherlands).

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