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Vera Pauw juggling qualifier planning with European Covid restrictions

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Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw is trying to juggle planning for a European qualifier with Covid restrictions in Europe. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw is trying to juggle planning for a European qualifier with Covid restrictions in Europe. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw is trying to juggle planning for a European qualifier with Covid restrictions in Europe. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Vera Pauw has revealed how Covid-19 regulations have complicated plans for her Ireland women's team for a Euro qualifier away to Germany next month with Australian-based forward Julie-Ann Russell facing a real dilemma over her plans to hook up with the squad.

The Republic of Ireland are currently top of Group I in the qualifiers for Euro 2021, which have been moved to 2022 because of the pandemic, but with two of the final three games against the powerhouse Germany, the Germans are expected to win the group leaving Ireland hoping for second place.

That's why Pauw, who this week signed a contract extension which keeps her on board at the FAI as far as the finals, if Ireland qualify, has identified the game away to Ukraine in October as a key game in qualification.

"Winning the group is unrealistic, we have to know where we stand to succeed, Germany are so far ahead of us, eight European Championships and two World Cups, we have to be realistic," Pauw said today after naming her squad for the September 19th game in Germany.

"We want to take everything we can from the Germany game but the key game is Ukraine, if we win in Ukraine and steal a point from Germany we have a huge, huge chance to go straight to England. If there are playoffs we go for that."

But problems with travel arising from Covid-19 have made it difficult to plan. Most of the squad are based in the UK (12 players), another nine in Ireland but with players attached to clubs in the USA, Australia, Portugal, Italy, Denmark and Germany, red tape is complicated, especially for the Sydney-based Russell, ahead of that game away to the Germans, and the tradition of having a pre-game camp at home, in Dublin, is not possible.

"We assemble in Germany," Pauw explained.

"We had intended to assemble over the border in the Netherlands as Essen, where we play, is only an hour away from there. But the Netherlands is now an orange area so we switched and we have a camp 10km away, it's a very safe area, not a lot of Covid infections, so we go to Dusiburg and will have our whole camp there.

"That saves us 40 times the risk of being infected on the plane or in an airport as there are 40 flights less than assembling in Ireland. That was the choice we made early on, once we knew the game would be played, to not take any risks extra to what we have to take.

"But there are of course problems with players going straight to Germany who have to quarantine, one of the is Louise Quinn, another is Julie-Ann Russell, that's a huge problem.

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"If it was Ireland or Germany, they could come here and we could arrange they could come to Ireland and go to Germany in the 'bubble', the same with Heather Payne and Denise O'Sullivan but she [Russell] cannot re-enter Australia, that's a huge problem, she cannot go back home. Australia only lets 350 people a day into the country, there are huge queues of people who want to enter and go home.

"So we are still busy with that, finding a solution, the Association is working hard with the Australian embassy and Julie-Ann's employer, if we can pay her unpaid leave as we get funds from FIFA for that to cope with the problems of Covid," Pauw added.

A number of her players have secured moves since the last time the squad was in camp but another boost was the appointment of Niamh Fahey as captain of Liverpool Women.

"As an Irish player to captain Liverpool it's unbelievable and we all congratulate her, it must be a huge boost. She had some problems last year before Covid, she had a foot injury but played on and it had an impact on her, she is fully recovered now, fully back in and gaining the captaincy armband must be a huge boost," Pauw said.

Pauw, who will trim her squad to a 23-strong travelling party, gave first-time call ups to midfielders Alli Murphy and Ellen Molloy. Isibeal Atkinson's form with Shelbourne is also noted with her inclusion.

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (SC Braga), Grace Moloney (Reading), Courtney Brosnan (West Ham United), Niamh Reid Burke (Peamount United)

Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Keeva Keenan (Celtic), Louise Quinn (Fiorentina), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Claire O'Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Isibeal Atkinson (Shelbourne)

Midfielders: Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Jamie Finn (Shelbourne), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Alli Murphy (London City Lionesses), Niamh Farrelly (Peamount United), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Hayley Nolan (London City Lionesses), Jessica Ziu (Shelbourne), Ruesha Littlejohn (Leicester City), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United)

Forwards: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Heather Payne (Florida State University), Leanne Kiernan (West Ham United), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Rianna Jarrett (Brighton & Hove Albion), Julie-Ann Russell (Sydney University), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge)


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