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women focus in on austria

THE Republic of Ireland Senior Women's team play their first home game in 12 months tomorrow when they face Austria in an international friendly at Tallaght Stadium at 7.30pm.

Since the 1-0 defeat by Scotland in a UEFA European Championship qualifier at Turner's Cross on June 21, Sue Ronan's side have played eight games on the road, winning three and drawing one.

That defeat in Cork ended Ireland's hopes of qualifying for next month's European Championship in Sweden so manager Sue Ronan has been preparing since then for the FIFA World Cup qualifiers which kick-off in September.

"We are a team in transition at the moment but the introduction of the Bus Éireann Women's League two seasons ago has meant that there are now a lot of quality players to consider," said Ronan.

"We went to the Cyprus Cup in March and the performances out there left me with plenty to think about over the last few months and I'm really looking forward to the chance to try out one or two things on Tuesday night against Austria."

Nine of the 20 players in the squad for Tuesday are home-based and for some, like Peamount United's Sara Lawlor, it will be the first time they've played in Ireland at senior level.

"I've won six caps and they've all been away from home so I'm looking forward to playing in Tallaght in front of my family and friends," said Lawlor, who goes into the game on the back of a successful season where she finished top scorer in the Bus Eireann National Women's League and won the Player of the Year award for the second successive year.

Amazingly, for a player who's scored 43 league goals in two seasons, Lawlor has yet to score at senior international level but she hopes to put that right.

The game may also see Arsenal's Yvonne Tracy become only the fourth woman to reach the 75 cap mark, after Ciara Grant, Olivia O'Toole and Emma Byrne, but Tracy's determined to emulate her Arsenal colleague Grant and reach the century mark.

"Hopefully, I can get to 100 also. I know Emma (Byrne) is currently on 97 and even though I'm 32, it's still a goal of mine to keep playing for as long as my legs keep going," said Tracy.

There has been just one change from the original squad announced by Ronan with Peamount's Aine O'Gorman forced to withdraw with a stress fracture on her ankle. Uncapped Geraldine McLaughlin has been called up as her replacement.

*Tuesday's match in Tallaght Stadium kicks off at 7.30pm and admission is €10 with U16s admitted free of charge.