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Capture of Megan Walsh looks another major coup for Vera Pauw’s Ireland

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Megan Walsh has been an impressive performer for Brighton. Photo: Sportsfile

Megan Walsh has been an impressive performer for Brighton. Photo: Sportsfile

Megan Walsh has been an impressive performer for Brighton. Photo: Sportsfile

Ask many close watchers of Brighton in the Women’s Super League and they will say that one of the most surprising aspects of their steady rise into top three under redoubtable ex-England coach Hope Powell has been the lack of international recognition for goalkeeper Megan Walsh.

It is an oversight which will soon be amended although not, as it would have been widely assumed, in the colours of the Lionesses but instead with Vera Pauw’s self-proclaimed Tallaght Tigers.

Her switch in international allegiance, confirmed on Monday, follows swiftly in the wake of the acquisition of Birmingham City striker Lucy Quinn, who has already made an instant impression in green by scoring a spectacular free-kick against a crack Australian side within minutes of her September debut.

Although there is no definitive policy within the international team to revert to the vernacular of the Jack Charlton ‘grab a granny’ era, there is instead a heightened awareness that, in afar more limited playing population, no avenue of recruitment is closed off.

Unlike in the men’s game, however, the construction of the women’s international game means that the reduced level of established, or even emerging, talents mitigates against any mirroring of the inordinate squabbles that have dominated football headlines in recent times.

So there will be no hand-wringing moral dilemmas similar to l’affaires Jack Grealish or Declan Rice to contemplate, no obsequious knee-bowing at the altar of reluctant recalcitrants like Kevin Nolan or Nathan Redmond.

No yearning whataboutery that Harry Kane might possess ancient ties to this land, nor indeed the hasty scrambles to prove that others such as Tony Cascarino did.

And no cross-border spats like those which dogged the era of two senior managers who though they shared the same surname, O’Neill, differed so sharply on the issue of international eligibility that at one stage the DUP stuck their formidable oars into an often ugly debate.

Pauw is conscious of being dragged into similar ire and, although Quinn’s impact was instant, she actually had begun the process of confirming her allegiance some five years ago, when the Irish international team did not enjoy the profile and supports it does now.

In Walsh’s case, it was only a chance conversation last year about heritage with the then Brighton contingent of Irish players – Rianna Jarrett, Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Connolly – which prompted her to make entreaties to Ireland, rather than the other way around.

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Earlier this year, Pauw drafted in a quartet of potentially eligible players, Florence Gamby of London Bees, Lily Agg from London City Lionesses and Emily Murphy, of Chelsea but then on loan at Birmingham, while Glasgow City’s Aoife Colville was due to join up also but withdrew injured.

Like Walsh, who played underage for England at several levels, and Quinn, who did so in futsal, Murphy featured for England age-grade sides while Colville had previously expressed a desire to play for Australia.

However, aside from Colville’s Iceland debut, none have significantly advanced their cause as the Irish team have flourished with a mostly established squad.

And the Dutch woman, although demonstrably able to deliver ruthless selection choices, is clearly sensitive to the possibilities of jarring with either home-based players or established overseas squad members.

“It is not like we try to convince your brain, but it is your choice,” is her philosophy.

“The moment they choose, they must be ready. It’s not go for a trial and then, then going backwards. They have to choose for Ireland.”

For her part, Irish captain Katie McCabe has dismissed the potential for another Rice or Grealish farce; ironically, her partner and team-mate, Ruesha Littlejohn, was once a Scottish youth international.

Experienced defender Louise Quinn is also resolute that this tight-knit squad have their own standards. “I want people in the squad who want to be here, who are passionate about the country,” according to the Birmingham player.

Quite simply, however, the players eyeing international opportunities for other countries will never be so highly coveted, nor numerous.

But in Quinn and Walsh, Ireland have captured two gems.


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