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Scrappy draw a setback for Irish World Cup hopes

Republic of Ireland 1 Slovakia 1

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Jamie Finn of Republic of Ireland in action against Jana Vojteková of Slovakia during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifying group A match between Republic of Ireland and Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jamie Finn of Republic of Ireland in action against Jana Vojteková of Slovakia during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifying group A match between Republic of Ireland and Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Jamie Finn of Republic of Ireland in action against Jana Vojteková of Slovakia during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 qualifying group A match between Republic of Ireland and Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Heavy lies the crown on Irish heads as the Republic of Ireland showed they can struggle to deal with the tag of favourites.

And last night’s 1-1 draw at home to Slovakia is definitely a case of two points dropped from what appeared to be a most winnable tie, adding more roadblocks to a road to the 2023 World Cup which looks a lot more tricky than it seemed a week ago, with the demand of a six-point haul from these games at home to Slovakia and Georgia already a missed target.

Katie McCabe once again underlined her class and her value to the national cause as she capped off a fine personal display with a superb equalising goal, while Denise O’Sullivan was again vital, but without that pair, the outcome in front of a record crowd of 5,164 could have been a lot worse.

A win for Sweden over Finland earlier in the evening was a boost for Ireland and their hopes of securing second place, but that runner-up spot – and make no mistake, Sweden will win this group and at a canter – will really be under threat if Vera Pauw’s side deliver more sub-par displays such as this one.

Ireland could not argue that they deserved the win as Slovakia, listed 12 places below Ireland in the world rankings, could have won and it would have been a travesty if they’d gone home pointless.

“We have lost two points, credit to Slovakia but we all know we can do better. They were dangerous all over, we made some individual mistakes and we lost the points but we have to be glad with a draw,” said manager Pauw afterwards.

“They were very aggressive, which we knew they would be, and we were prepared for that, they had lots of possession. On our side, individuals can lose their organisation and we need to learn that, you cannot just do your own thing, you have to have your game plan, keep that togetherness.”

Irish frustration was summed up by the fact that it took the home side 32 minutes to put together an attack worthy of the name and force a save from the Slovakian goalkeeper, as the away team looked comfortable from the start. Maybe there was a bad omen with a mis-step from the Irish side before events have even started.

When the Serbian referee blew her whistle, the Irish players took a knee, the away side stood and pointed to the ‘Respect’ logo on their sleeves, but Heather Payne hadn’t read the pre-match briefing and tipped off, while her team-mates were all kneeling.

Maybe that set the tone as it was unconvincing stuff from Pauw’s players from there on, with Slovakia registering the first attempt on goal, as Courtney Brosnan saved from Maria Mikolajova on 10 minutes.

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Ireland struggled to find a way past a dogged, well-drilled Slovakia, finally a chance on 32 minutes when striker Lucy Quinn got her head to Aine O’Gorman’s cross, after some good work by Heather Payne, who misses the Georgia game on Tuesday due to college commitments.

Slovakia showed they were in the game four minutes later, Louise Quinn beaten by Dominika Skorvankova and again, Brosnan was needed at her best to deny them a goal.

After what can assumed to be a stern lecture from Pauw at half time, Ireland raced out for the second half, appearing into the cold Tallaght night a few minutes ahead of the visitors who soaked up as much dressing room warmth as possible.

But Slovakia started well, and took that lead on 47 minutes, Ireland punished for a loss of concentration as Ludmila Matavkova fed Martina Surnovska, who was able to fend off NiamH Fahey and slide the ball past Brosnan.

Ireland managed to find something to spark a revival, Megan Connolly close with a shot on 57 minutes in a move started by McCabe. And it was McCabe who did what was needed on 65 minutes, taking the ball from a clever pass by O’Sullivan and sliding her shot into the net despite the number of bodies in front of her.

Clever enough to realise that what had come before from Ireland was not good enough but also desperate for a win, McCabe waved her arms to incite a reaction from the home crowd of 5,164.

But Ireland had little more to offer as Slovakia were more likely to score, Brosnan saving from Alexandra Biroova on 73 minutes.

Brosnan created the danger herself, two minutes later after a heavy touch from the keeper, after a back pass from Fahey, almost gifted Patricia Hmirova a goal, and Ireland needed Louise Quinn to save the day.

REP OF IRELAND – Brosnan; McCarthy, Louise Quinn, Fahey; O’Gorman (Littlejohn 70), Finn, O’Sullivan, Connolly, McCabe; Lucy Quinn (Carusa 83), Payne.

SLOVAKIA – Korenciova; Horvathova, Biroova (Lemesova 76), Fischerova, Bartovicova, Vijetkova; Skorvankova, Mikolajova, Surnovska (Zemberyova 65), Hmirova; Matavkova.

REF – J Cvetkovic (Serbia).


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