'It's a cup final, winner-takes-all' - Jarrett looks ahead to crunch Ukraine clash

Thu, Oct 22 2020

It hasn't been the easiest couple of months for Rianna Jarrett.

She first joined Brighton & Hove Albion in January on a six-month contract and marked her debut with two goals in the Women’s FA Cup against London rivals Crystal Palace in February.

However, COVID struck in March and saw the entirety of women’s football in England shut down for five months, leaving Jarrett uncertain as to whether her contract would be renewed. In July, her worries were eased as she signed another contract for the 2020-21 season.

Now back with the Irish women’s squad ahead of their Euro 2022 qualifier against Ukraine on Friday, which has been described by many within the Irish team as their ‘cup final’, Jarrett was asked to reminisce about the last time Ireland played Ukraine in October of last year.

Jarrett scored her first goal for Ireland and played a part in the creation of two more as Ireland took the points in a 3-2 classic.

“It was definitely one of the best for me and as a country and as a whole I think that game was fantastic,” she recalls of that cold October evening.

“On the day we had a record attendance in Tallaght. We knew going into the game that Ukraine were ranked higher than us. It was Vera's first game, new management, new set-up so going into that game there was excitement from all angles and the performance that we showed on the day really put us in good step as to how we want to play going forward”.

While Ireland were impressive that day, there will be concerns as to how they let a commanding 2-0 slip to be level at the break.

“We were two goals up, playing well and then from two set pieces they get right back into it so it’s something we definitely need to look at. It’s going to be a tight game so we need to make sure we’re structured defensively and focused from the first whistle to the last”.

This Ireland camp will be very different to the one held this time last year, as COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on the fixture list and on preparations.

Players are now no longer allowed to gather in each others rooms and must wear face masks at all times apart from during meals.

“Camp is definitely that little bit different” Jarrett adds. “We’re all obviously very familiar with each other, we’re all used to gathering around each other and we’re Irish, we love giving each other hugs but that’s obviously been taken away."

These added restrictions mean that one of the few times when players will be able to communicate freely will be on the training pitch. Will this only amplify the importance of time on the pitch, both from a tactical and interpersonal perspective?

“For us, anytime we have on the pitch will be important,” Jarrett admits. "If you look at the whole window, because we play early in the window, in terms of having the whole squad together, today will be the first time. It’s vital in terms of analysing what’s come previously and what’s going to happen on Friday."

The Ireland team go into the game on Thursday full of confidence and belief that they can get the necessary result to secure their play-off place.

“We showed a lot of character in the last Ukraine game. We were 2-0 up, went in at half-time 2-2 and previously we would have let that get to us and tried to change our game plan but we showed a lot of character in the second half to play the way we wanted to play."

“It’s a cup final, winner-takes-all kind of came on Friday so it’ll be a tough one but one we’re all looking forward to."