Arsenal midfielder Niamh Fahey is back in the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team squad for the Cyprus Cup after missing the entire 2013 international programme.
The 26-year-old from Galway last played for Ireland in the 2-0 defeat by World No.1 USA in December 2012 in Arizona and after being unavailable for last year’s Cyprus Cup due to work commitments she missed the rest of the year after sustaining a cruciate ligament injury.
Manager Sue Ronan said the return of Fahey, who has been named senior women’s player of the year on three occasions, is a great boost for the squad ahead of the resumption of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“We are going to use Cyprus to ease her back in, like we did last year with Dora Gorman when she returned from a lengthy injury. But having Niamh available again is going to give everybody a great lift particularly with the tough games against Germany and Russia coming up in the next few months,” said Ronan.
Also returning to the squad is defender Megan Campbell who was unavailable for the World Cup qualifier against Slovenia and last month’s training camp in La Manga due to college commitments at Florida State University where she has just completed an impressive debut season. Durham defender Seana Cooke is unavailable due to illness but midfielder Shannon Smyth returns after missing La Manga because she was pursuing her coaching qualifications.
There is also a first call-up for Raheny United winger Siobhan Killeen, who was one of the stars as the Dublin club captured the Bus Eireann Women’s League and the FAI Umbro Women’s Cup last season. She joins her Raheny team-mate Niamh Reid-Burke, Castlebar Celtic’s Aileen Gilroy and Reading’s Grace Moloney as the only uncapped players in the squad.
“All four have a lot of underage international experience behind them and we now have to see if they are ready for the step up to the senior squad. Niamh is probably the best home-based goalkeeper available while Grace has been in the last few squads and they’ll learn a lot from Emma Byrne during the week. Siobhan and Aileen can both play wide and they’ll give us more options on the flanks,” commented Ronan.
Because of work commitments, schoolteachers Karen Duggan and Sophie Perry are only available for a week each so one will be considered for the first two games and the other will jet in for the final two games of the tournament in which Ireland finished eighth of the 12 nations last year after winning Group 3 ahead of South Korea, Northern Ireland and South Africa.
At 33, Ireland are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, and have been drawn in Group 3 along with New Zealand (WR16), South Korean (WR17) and Switzerland (WR22). The other teams in the 12 nation tournament are France (WR5), Canada (WR7), Australia (WR9), England (WR11), Italy (WR12), Netherlands (WR14), Scotland (WR20) and Finland (WR23).
Ireland will play all their group games at 14:30 local time in the Tasos Marko Stadium in Paralimni and kick-off on March 5 against New Zealand before facing South Korea on March 7 and Switzerland on March 10. The final game on March 12 will be for their overall finishing position and the opposition won’t be known until the completion of the group stage on March 10
The Cyprus Cup is part of an intensive preparation programme for the resumption of the World Cup qualifying campaign in April when Ireland will face European champions Germany in a top of the table clash at Tallaght Stadium on April 5 before meeting second seeds Russia at the same venue on May 7.
“Everything we are doing, from last month’s winter training camp in La Manga to the four games in Cyprus, is focused on the World Cup qualifiers and, in particular, the home games against Germany and Russia. We have introduced strength and conditioning programmes for all the home-based players and while the effects of that won’t be seen for some time it is another step in the right direction for us,” said Ronan.
Emma Byrne (Arsenal),
Grace Moloney (Reading),
Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United).
Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal),
Sophie Perry (Millwall),
Meabh de Burca (Galway WFC),
Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United),
Diane Caldwell (Avaldsness),
Megan Campbell (Florida State University),
Karen Duggan (Peamount United).
Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United),
Rachel Graham (Raheny United),
Ciara Grant (Raheny United),
Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United),
Niamh Fahey (Arsenal),
Dora Gorman (Peamount United),
Aileen Gilroy (Castlebar Celtic),
Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad).
Fiona O’Sullivan (SC Frieburg),
Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City),
Stephanie Roche (Peamount United),
Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City),
Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United).
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