Saturday 22 July 2017

Ireland show resolution after achieving their goal

Stephanie Roche celebrates after scoring from the spot. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Stephanie Roche celebrates after scoring from the spot. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

After such striking conviction off the field, slightly less on it in Tallaght.

But no matter; for the Irish women had been threatening to down tools for something rather more intangible.

Winning this game offered some sense of validation, perhaps, for their stance in defying institutionalised failures.

But then playing for one's country is never supposed to be reduced to an exercise of mere justification.

For the record, Stephanie Roche, the superstar of a side who demonstrated startling collective will in the past seven days, scored the early second-half winner of a largely uninspiring game.

The inspiring and dramatic real-life play that had preceded it should prove itself of much more substantial value in the months and years ahead.

Like sport imitating life, the Irish started sluggishly in front of a crowd of 1,037, living on scraps, struggling to be decisive. It took time to establish credentials and make their voice heard; for many women in sport, it has taken a century, not 45 minutes.

While the worst thing that one can say to a human being is that they are not good enough, perhaps the second worst is telling them they are not worthy of being good enough.

Struggle

Ireland's women can, one suspects, struggle to accept the fact that their status ranks poorly in terms of the international game, for now at least, despite the feats achieved by some of their more recognised individuals.

However, measuring the worth of the individual performer demands much more than merely a reference to world rankings or financial balance sheets.

It is about respect, and that is all these players wanted; it will not necessarily make them into better players or a better team or, as manager Colin Bell averred, "play like Barcelona or Manchester City"; or, indeed, attract thousands of docile armchair sports fans to watch them.

They just want the chance to be as good as they think they can be.

Katie McCabe thrilled the eager crowd with some mesmeric wing play in the second half; she grew up down the road in Kilnamanagh but her professional career has brought her to Arsenal.

"That was put to bed," she says of the resolution which had kept them out of bed for longer than seemed necessary last Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

At least they wrought from the government-funded FAI guarantees that should be expected as minimum standards for athletes representing their country.

"For us it was about getting back on the training ground with Colin and concentrating on getting the result, which is obviously what we did.

"We wanted to meet up as a team and concentrate on playing football. So no, I wouldn't say any sleepless nights affected anything."

The manager was eager to cast the remnants of 'tracksuit-gate' into the history books, even if his employer's ever-compulsive need to retrieve some of the spotlight seemed to muddy the waters.

FAI CEO John Delaney, who has just managed to land himself another paid gig that pays daily expenses which would cover those being sought by the players for each game, seemed baffled that they had stayed up half the night at all.

"Just ask John," demurs Bell; charmingly, he seems as yet a tad unacquainted with how this often preposterously dysfunctional sporting body can be at times. "But it didn't affect us."

Bell has won a Champions League in this sport so is clearly no mug and will hopefully not be taken for one.

"He will set standards and we'll set standards as players on the pitch and in training," says McCabe.

"We want to qualify for a major tournament as we've not done that before. We're in good hands with Colin.

"Today was terrific. We loved everyone coming out. I know it was a tricky one, 2pm on a Monday, but we got the support and we hope that can grow going into the game against Iceland and then the qualifiers in September."

Self-respect will be just as hard to win on the pitch. At least now they have a sporting chance.

Roche backs up talk with spot-kick winner

Ireland women 1 Slovakia women 0

Six days after supplying an explosive insight to the mistreatment of the Ireland women's squad, Stephanie Roche followed her talk with action by scoring the winner at Tallaght Stadium, writes John Fallon.

The Sunderland striker slotted home a 47th-minute penalty, sending the Slovakia's keeper the wrong way after Megan Connolly was fouled to conclude a dramatic week for the squad.

Ireland should have won by more, with Arsenal's Katie McCabe the standout performer.

Captain Emma Byrne was hardly tested in the Ireland goal; she made way for Marie Hourihan at half-time in a pre-arranged switch.

New manager Colin Bell must have been impressed with Houston Dash's Denise O'Sullivan, who was denied by a double save.

Once Ireland forged ahead, they remained in control. Connolly blazed a decent chance over, and Claire O'Riordan poked just wide after racing clear on goal.

Ireland are next back on June 8 for a Tallaght friendly against Iceland, before they travel to Scotland in their last warm-up game before the World Cup qualifiers kick off in September.

IRELAND - Byrne (Hourihan 45); Perry, Caldwell, Quinn, Perry; Duggan; O'Gorman, O'Sullivan, Connolly (Russell 75), McCabe (O'Riordan 90); Roche (Littlejohn 88).

Irish Independent

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