Sport Soccer

Tuesday 17 July 2018

O'Sullivan and McCabe keep Irish women on right track

Slovakia 0 Republic of Ireland 2

Katie McCabe (left) and Denise O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile
Katie McCabe (left) and Denise O'Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Ireland will travel to European champions Holland in four weeks daring to believe after delivering the perfect away performance to make it two wins from two games in their 2019 Women's World Cup qualifying campaign.

To seriously challenge for even a play-off place, however, Ireland will need to take points off the Dutch or Norway.

Ireland's Ruesha Littlejohn charges ahead of Slovakia's Valentína Šušolová. Photo: Sportsfile
Ireland's Ruesha Littlejohn charges ahead of Slovakia's Valentína Šušolová. Photo: Sportsfile

The Dutch won the duel of the top two 1-0 as Ireland did the business in Senek to maintain the momentum gained in their 2-0 win over Northern Ireland.

First-half goals by Denise O'Sullivan - her 10th for her country - and captain Katie McCabe secured a deserved victory that would have been more convincing had substitute Ruesha Littlejohn not missed a late penalty.

"This wasn't a beauty contest but a classic away performance," asserted manager Colin Bell.

"We came to do a job and that's what we did - Slovakia didn't have one real chance in the entire game.

Slovakia's Valentína Šušolová staves off Ireland's Tyler Toland. Photo: Sportsfile
Slovakia's Valentína Šušolová staves off Ireland's Tyler Toland. Photo: Sportsfile

Clean sheets

"Defending is a big part of the game and we've kept seven clean sheets in the nine games since I took over in February. This was a scrap but two pieces of quality made the difference."

Already missing Stephanie Roche and Aine O'Gorman, a late hamstring injury meant that Ireland had to line out without Karen Duggan in midfield.

She was replaced by Tyler Toland and the 16-year-old from Derry excelled.

"We need to integrate these young players now rather than looking at a rebuilding job for the next campaign," explained Bell. "I thought Tyler played very well."

Megan Campbell's long throw-in after 11 minutes set up McCabe to cut back the ball to O'Sullivan, who angled a half-volley past Maria Korenclova.

Sub-standard defending helped Ireland fashion a second on 33 minutes. O'Sullivan was first to react when the Slovak defence failed to clear a cross by substitute Sophie Perry. She found Amber Barrett and her neat tee-up allowed the onrushing McCabe to score with the help of a deflection.

Ten minutes from the end, Celtic's Littlejohn earned a penalty two minutes after coming on, but her effort was saved.

Meanwhile, the U-19s were beaten 8-1 by hosts Holland in the final match of their qualifying group, but still progress to the Elite round, having already beaten Estonia and Latvia.

Ireland - Hourihan (Man City); Scott (Reading), Quinn (Arsenal), Caldwell (SC Sand), Campbell (Man City); Fahey (Bordeaux), Toland (Maiden City); McCabe (Glasgow City), D O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), L Kiernan (Shelbourne); Barrett (Peamount Utd). Subs: S Perry (Brighton) for Kiernan (30 mins), Littlejohn (Celtic) for Barrett (77 mins), McLauglin (Shelbourne) for Toland (90 mins).

Irish Independent

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