Irish soccer supporters are becoming wearily familiar with transition.
As the growing pains of Stephen Kenny’s men are paused momentarily, to the relief of some, Vera Pauw’s women return to action in their equally difficult attempts to marry optimism and realism.
Despite seven successive losses, five of them scoreless efforts, there will still be a sell-out crowd this evening – albeit a Covid-restricted 4,000 – to cheer on a side for whom losing has become an all too familiar habit.
“I have no fear of failure, the performance is the result,” insists Pauw.
The official line that progress is being made, as all the defeats have been against established, higher-ranked opposition, has glued both her bosses together to her regime while the players too, remain wholeheartedly behind her methods.
Still, Ireland need something to change drastically and the Dutch native hopes that the belated confirmation of Birmingham City striker Lucy Quinn’s eligibility might provide it, particularly after her initial squad was devastated by 11 withdrawals through illness and injury.
“Everybody who follows the WSL knows her,” says Pauw. “What I expect from her we need to see tomorrow – it is her first game her – but definitely she will bring the level of the WSL into the squad. That in itself is already a boost for us.
“We are getting closer and closer as you have all seen, we are getting better and better, and the moment will be there that it turns around and we score the goals.
“We were looking for extra quality and this process was going on for five years. Somehow it got stuck. We jumped in and pushed it to help her to get this passport.
“She really, really feels that she wants it, she wants to play for Ireland. When you see here in the group, she is amazing.
“She is playing week in, week out in the WSL and always for 90 minutes and never injured, touch wood! So, of course, it adds something to our squad.”
The cancellation of last Friday’s opening World Cup qualification fixture against Georgia denied them what would presumably have been a morale-boosting win.
However, they did defeat tonight’s opponents in an impromptu training ground game behind closed doors in Abbottstown on Thursday after the Matildas arrived in town; a ‘scrimmage’ game involving three 25-minute games ended 2-1 in Ireland’s favour.
The remarkable Sam Kerr did not feature there. However, tonight she wins her 100th cap and, as the Chelsea star scores a goal every other game in international football, her threat is obvious.
Especially against an injury-ravaged defence thieved of three ankle break victims, Megan Campbell, Keeva Keenan and Claire O’Riordan.
Although themselves stripped of half a dozen of the more experienced players who jousted with Sweden for Olympic bronze in Tokyo, the visitors’ reputation should install them as favourites here, particularly given the Irish injuries.
Australia are ranked 11 in the world – Ireland in contrast are a lowly 33rd – and en route to the Olympic semi-finals they impressively despatched the GB team.
Their aims are far more exalted than that of their hosts; they are plotting a course they feel can win them the next World Cup; Ireland are merely hoping to qualify for their first one.
“We said we need to play as many unique opponents as possible, meaning different type of opponents and Ireland is giving us a very different kind of picture than the other European games have done so far,” says coach Tony Gustavsson.
“That’s good for us because we always need to adjust to different challenges.
“What Ireland is going to give us is that they’re extremely hard working and they don’t shy away from a tackle.
“It’s going to be physical game, they’re never going to give up in those challenges and the runs and the physicality of the game. So in that sense, it’s a good game for us.”
Adopting a similar style in possession to that of Sweden, which is why Pauw chose them as opponents, the main focus for Ireland regardless of personnel will be a quest to eliminate defensive mis-haps and become more clinical up front.
Armed with not just one mighty Quinn – defender Louise – but now two, the 4,000 supporters in the sell-out crowd will hope to bear witness to the end of a dismal sequence of results.