Friday 24 January 2020

Ulster trio's return helps Shaw to get Green Army firing again


'Anna O'Flanagan made it clear that they will be looking to win' Photo: Getty
'Anna O'Flanagan made it clear that they will be looking to win' Photo: Getty

David Medcalf

Tomorrow's fixture at the Women's World Cup is a daunting one on the face of it for Ireland's ground-breaking squad - though only on the face of it.

A match in front of a sell-out, England-supporting crowd against a host side dripping with Olympic gold medals is not a prospect for the faint-hearted.

But Graham Shaw's girls have the luxury not requiring anything from their final pool game at the Lee Valley complex in London. With two magnificent wins already under their belt - against the United States and India - they are guaranteed their place in the quarter-finals, no matter what the result.

The last time the Irish met England at a major tournament, the outcome was a depressing 4-1 defeat at the European Championships in Amsterdam.

The English went on to finish third while their glum opponents played liked nervous kittens and went within a whisker of relegation. What a difference a year has made, with Ireland recovering a tigerish quality at Lee Valley which was never on display in the Wagener Stadium.

Coach Shaw has given the players a successful psychological overhaul and put the smile back on faces which looked so shell-shocked last summer. The squad has also benefited from the return of three influential Ulster women to the ranks who all missed the Euros - Megan Frazer, Lizzie Colvin and Ayeisha McFerran.

As she finds her way back after treble surgery on her troublesome knee, the 2018 version of Frazer is not quite yet the world-class operator she used to be. Nevertheless, the former captain is still capable of turning defence into attack with a telling pass and she imbues all around her with confidence. Colvin is a dependable midfielder who seldom makes a mistake.

And goalkeeper McFerran is an immense young talent, as she showed on Thursday when came out on top in a match deciding one-on-one against crafty Indian forward Rani late in the day.

There is no danger that the Green Army will be content to take a hiding tomorrow just because they already have progress in the bag. One shy of Lynsey McVicker's record haul of 65 goals for Ireland, Anna O'Flanagan made it clear that they will be looking to win.

"Results have gone our way and now we are absolutely buzzing for the English game," said the former Hermes and UCD striker. On the books of Bloemendaal, she made the point that most of the team-mates who have reached such heights this week are part-time sportswomen.

England v Ireland,
Live, BT Sport, 7.0 tomorrow

Irish Independent

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