High noon showdown for Republic of Ireland Women’s U17s
It will be a High Noon showdown for the Republic of Ireland Women’s U17 Team tomorrow as their UEFA European U17 Championship Elite Phase group in Cork goes down to the wire.
Ireland play Hungary at Turner’s Cross while Netherlands face England at St Colman’s Park. The Irish and Dutch are level on four points so, if they both win, the group winners and the automatic qualifiers for this summer’s finals in Iceland will be decided by goal difference with Ireland going into the final day on plus two and Netherlands on plus four.
For Ireland manager Dave Connell, who missed out on qualifying for the European U17 Championship Finals last season on goal difference to the eventual runners-up Spain, the focus will be entirely on winning their game and then hoping everything else falls into place.
“We just have to concentrate on getting the win. It is great that England are still in with a chance. They have something to play for so we just have to concentrate on getting the win and making sure that we get across the line. Holland are down two players as their left winger went off injured and their captain was sent off on Saturday so it is going to be a tougher game for them.
“We know Hungary, we’ve seen them playing. We know their strengths, know their weaknesses and we certainly won’t be taking anything for granted,” said Connell, who admits he hasn’t been surprised by how well his team have done in a group containing two of the strongest football nations in Europe.
“We obviously knew we had a chance. We were very confident coming into the competition that we could surprise a few people and we have done that. We were a little bit disappointed that we didn’t win the game against the Netherlands which speaks high volumes for the achievements of the girls. We have probably over-achieved again but we are looking to finish the job on Tuesday.”
He was also full of praise for his players who have risen to the occasion this week and were certainly not overawed at the prospect of facing the likes of England and Netherlands.
“They have been great for us. A lot of them were with us last year when we went out on goal difference and didn’t qualify for the finals so that experience is there and they are really determined to get to the finals and to get to Iceland.
“When you look at the clubs these players are with in England and in the Netherlands and the facilities that they have and just the structures in general that they have, our girls matched that and, in fact, outplayed both teams and restricted them to no goals. That’s great credit to all the players.”
While Ireland were beating England 2-0 and drawing 0-0 with Netherlands in their opening two games, Hungary were on the wrong end of a 5-1 defeat by the Dutch and a 4-1 loss to the English but midfield Roma McLaughlin says they won’t be taking anything for granted.
“We will have to work even harder than we did in the past two games. We just need to get three points,” said McLaughlin, who plays with Donegal side Greencastle, while defender Chloe Moloney, from Clare side Connolly Celtic, says they are determined not to fall at the final hurdle. “We have worked so hard we don’t want to let it slip now,” said Moloney.
Lakewood’s Evelyn Daly, who was injured late on in the England game, is still out with a knee injury but the rest of the squad are fit after using yesterday to recover from their exertions in the opening two matches where their fitness levels were extremely impressive.
“We play a high pressure game. It is very demanding on the girls, we know that and we emphasised it to them as early as last November. They do work very hard themselves individually. When we get them in we tend to work on all the tactical stuff so it is their responsibility to get themselves fit and they have done that. They know they can take on the best in Europe if they are fit because technically they don’t lack anything.”
After the results from the first two games the mood in the Irish camp is extremely buoyant and Connell says his players are utterly focused on qualification.
“They really want to deliver, they really want to go to Iceland and we feel we can really finish off the job on Tuesday. It would be brilliant to reach Iceland with a crowd here at Turner’s Cross. We have had brilliant crowds so far so hopefully we can get a great crowd for this game.”