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O'Gorman is aiming to cap century by causing upset

Aine O’Gorman makes her way on to the pitch for Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Tallaght stadium against Norway last week. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Aine O’Gorman makes her way on to the pitch for Ireland’s World Cup qualifier in Tallaght stadium against Norway last week. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

In the scenic port city of Stavanger on the west coast of Norway, it's sink or swim for the Ireland women's team.

A World Cup campaign which started at pace and managed to grow some legs is on the brink of collapsing unless the biggest result in the history of the side is achieved tonight against Norway at the Viking Stadium.

That title was attributed to their scoreless draw in Holland last November, a result that brought the European champions down a peg or two, but successful qualifications require more than gritty stalemates.

Ireland, in Colin Bell's first campaign as manager, have built their stall based on a foundation of solid defence, reliant on catching teams on the break.

Dynamic

Tonight presents a different dynamic insofar as Ireland must do what they failed to accomplish in the previous three games against the Dutch and Norwegians - find the net.

Norway, following a sluggish start after a disastrous European Championship finals, have begun to justify their tag as Group Three's top-seeded nation. Ireland were fortunate to get out of Tallaght in Friday's first game between the teams with a 2-0 reverse.

An improvement, beginning with the elimination of elementary lapses which gifted both goals, is required as well as something special at the opposite end of the pitch.

Otherwise, the concluding qualifier, a derby against Northern Ireland at Tallaght Stadium on August 31, originally billed as the passage into the play-offs, will constitute a damp squib.

Áine O'Gorman isn't giving up on reaching a first major tournament. Given Ireland's injury problems, she could be deployed in a number of positions but the full-back spot she occupied on Friday for her return game after injury looks probable.

As was the case on her debut in 2006, she won't mind what role she's tasked with on her 100th cap.

The 29-year-old was part of the squad that reached a European Championship play-off in 2008 under Noel King and pushed reigning champions Germany to nicking a last-minute winner in the 3-2 defeat seven years later.

"This is the closest we've come to qualifying since reaching a European Championships play-off 10 years ago but I'm confident we'll do it," said O'Gorman.

"Just because of the situation we're in doesn't mean our philosophy will change.

"Colin will have us well organised to hit Norway on the counter-attack. With players like Leanne Kiernan up front, given her lightning pace, we can get at them. Although Norway are strong, they have weakness we can exploit.

"A lot has changed in the set-up since I made my debut at 16 against Denmark. We're much better set up, everybody knows their jobs and we'll be ready for this challenge. It would be great to mark the occasion with the win needed to keep us in contention."

The 16-000-capacity stadium is expected to be more than half-full as Norway close in on challenging Holland for the one automatic qualifying place at the finals in France next year.

Second will likely earn a play-off and Ireland's bid to usurp them is hindered once again by the absence of Harriet Scott. The full-back travelled with the squad yet couldn't overcome the knee injury which ruled her out on Friday.

"I'm never going to risk the health of one of my players so I've made that decision to leave her out," said Bell.

Diane Caldwell is another defensive mainstay unavailable, her third yellow card of the campaign incurring a one-match suspension.

Louise Quinn will take to the field sporting a mask to protect the broken nose suffered on Friday. Bell will need everything from his defensive colossus and more to avoid an early exit.

Norway v Ireland,

Live, RTÉ2, 5.0

Irish Independent

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