Connell full of pride as Bayern shatters girls' dream
Ireland 0 Netherlands 4 (Women's U-19 European c'ship)
Manager Dave Connell saluted his side's bravery after their European odyssey came to a crashing end in Oslo last night.
What the Dutch possessed in their ranks for this semi-final compared to the scoreless draw between the teams in April was senior international Vivianne Miedema.
The recently recruited Bayern Munich ace pocketed a hat-trick to help her team seal a place in Sunday's final against Spain. The Dutch ace, who had been kept under wraps during the group stage, was the standout performer on a night Ireland's dreams of glory met a grim reality.
"We're very disappointed to be out of the competition but I'm very proud of the players," said a deflated Connell, attempting to see the upside of the whitewash. "Even when they were losing 4-0 in the second half, the players stuck with it and created a few chances.
"Tonight was just a bridge too far for our girls. They've been fantastic throughout this but the Dutch are a very talented side with a huge depth of options at their disposal and major structures.
"We've contributed a lot to this tournament and I hope the people back home are proud of the players. They've been brilliant both on and off the pitch, and we've 12 of the 18 players underage again next season."
In the quiet suburban town of Mjondalen, Ireland were caught asleep after just five minutes.
All looked to be under control when defender Danique Kerkdijk launched a punt upfield but centre-back Ciara O'Connell misjudged the flight of the ball, allowing Miedema a clear run on goal.
Although goalkeeper Brooke Dunne blocked the striker's initial shot with her feet, Miedema followed up to force the rebound over the line.
That early concession put the Irish in similar territory to the previous wins over England and Sweden and they gamely set about trying to retrieve the tie. Clare Shine, back in the starting team in place of the injured Katie McCabe, looked lively up front but it was deep-lying midfielder Lauren Dwyer who came closest to equalising with a 20-yard curler that veered wide following a burst past two defenders.
Still, with Miedema's nous enabling her to find room between Ireland's midfield and defence, there was always a second goal in the Dutch.
Gasps of relief were heard on 26 minutes as Dominique Janssen's free-kick speared a yard off-target but their accuracy returned for the second goal nine minutes later.
From a loose ball on the half-way line, André Koolhof's side broke at pace, with Miedema again to the fore. She spread the ball wide to the onrushing Jeslynn Kuijpers and the winger's angled shot clipped the inside of Dunne's near post before nestling into the far corner.
Although Ireland had withstood the intense humidity during the group-stage tussles, it seemed to stifle them on this occasion. Dutch gold, of course, was a contributor to draining the energy reserves, yet they were running on empty from the early exchanges.
Whatever prospect remained at the break of chasing a two-goal deficit, it soon vanished when Miedema widened the margin within three minutes of the restart.
Playmaker Jill Roord instigated the damage by slipping a pass behind left-back Grace Wright for Kuijpers to latch on to. Her neat cut-back from the end-line gave the standout player of the match the easiest of tap-ins.
Seven minutes later and the Bundesliga-based ace grabbed her hat-trick with another piece of nonchalance. Her power and agility proved too much for a couple of defenders she sidestepped before drilling low home from eight yards.
That swift double rendered the last half hour a pride-restoring mission for the Girls in Green. Even when they did unlock the Dutch rearguard, as Shine succeeded in doing on the hour mark, they were denied by a brilliant save from Jennifer Vreugdenhill, who palmed the thunderbolt on to the crossbar.
Substitute McCabe suffered the same resistance from her rasping drive in stoppage-time, summing up a night of frustration at the tail-end of a memorable sojourn.
IRELAND – Dunne (Peamount Utd); Keenan (Shelbourne), McCarthy (Listowel Celtic), O'Connell (Wilton), Wright (Texas University); Mustaki (Peamount Utd); Dwyer (Wexford Yths), Connolly (College Corinthians); O'Connor (Wilton), Shine (Raheny Utd), Rowe (Castlebar Celtic). Subs: McCabe (Raheny Utd) for O'Connor (49), Nolan (Peamount Utd) for Mustaki (60), McLaughlin (Greencastle) for Dwyer, (inj, 66).
NETHERLANDS – Vreugdenhill; Akkerman, Janssen, Kerkdijk, Kuikstra; Mourmans, Roord, Kaagman; Kuijpers, Miedema, Strik. Subs: Peels for Kuikstra (75), Bruinenberg for Mourmans (77), Beerensteyn for Miedema (84).
REF – Marija Kurtes (Germany)