UEFA Women’s Nations League Report: Northern Ireland 1 - 6 Republic of Ireland
Macdara Ferris reports from the National Football Stadium in Windsor Park
Eileen Gleeson signed off her stint as interim Republic of Ireland manager in style with a comprehensive 6-1 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast – with six different players getting on the scoresheet for the visitors.
It rounded off a superb year for the Girls in Green who made their debut at the World Cup and having already secured promotion to League A two games ago, made it six wins from six in the Nations League.
The defeat cost Northern Ireland their shot at promotion as with Hungary defeating Albania at home it meant Tanya Oxtoby’s side finished third in League B Group 1.
It had been a tight enough affair between the neighbours until the Girls in Green (wearing white on the night) scored two quick fire goals in two first half minutes with Lucy Quinn central to both strikes.
The Birmingham City player grabbed her fifth international goal in the 37th minute. She took on Katie McCabe’s pass after she controlled Hayes’ long ball beautifully and Quinn ran at the home defence turning Sarah McFadden one way and the other.
When she unleashed her right foot shot from outside the area it seemed to deceive goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford for the opener.
Gleeson’s side doubled their lead soon after thanks to a fine goal from Heather Payne. She started and ended the move by playing Lucy Quinn out wide and, running into the six yard box, was on hand to side foot home Quinn’s cross from the end line after Caragh Hamilton hadn’t picked up her excellent run from deep.
Prior to those goals, the Northern Ireland defence had handled well the vistors attacking threat that saw Denise O’Sullivan deployed just behind the duo of Lucy Quinn and Kyra Carusa up top.
Megan Connolly, making her 50th international appearance, played alongside Louise Quinn and Caitline Hayes in the back three as Gleeson went with three at the back with Katie McCabe deployed in a more defensive wing back role compared with the starting line up against Hungary.
Maddy Harvey-Clifford had done well prior to the goals coming to claim a couple of crosses – the first off a Connolly corner won by McCabe and then a Payne centre from wide right.
The home side, who were looking for a win to guarantee them a Nations League play-off, did have the first chance of the game when Rebecca Holloway shot from distance inside the eighth minute.
The pressure from the home side came from their three first half corners. Marissa Callaghan ballooned the ball over the bar from one that came her way. Courtney Brosnan had to touch a cross around her post and then the keeper came through traffic to punch clear Chloe McCarron’s cross.
Early in the second half the visitors grabbed another two goals this time in three minutes. McCabe provided the assist for the first in the 47th minute – which Kyra Carusa headed home from close range holding off McFadden – and then she did all the work herself for the fourth goal – and her 26th for her country.
The Republic of Ireland captain took the ball from wide left inside beating Caragh Hamilton and Laura Rafferty for pace and with McFadden closing her down her sweet right foot - yes right foot – strike from the edge of the area flew into the goal.
On the hour mark Payne’s shot was pushed over the crossbar and when Connolly put the resulting corner in she found Louise Quinn close to the penalty area and she headed home for number five.
You wouldn’t say the gloss was taken off the victory by the concession of a goal in the 74th minute but Gleeson won’t have been happy to let in only their second goal of the campaign. Substitute Kerry Anne Beatie was in a perfect position to turn home Rebecca Holloway’s shot.
Another Connolly corner provided the last goal of the game. Caitlin Hayes got around at the back post and, despite McFadden having a fistful of her shirt, she volleyed home from the edge of the six yard box to make it 6-1 much to the delight of the sizable travelling support in the ground.
Northern Ireland: Maddy Harvey-Clifford; Rebecca McKenna (Demi Vance 46), Sarah McFadden, Laura Rafferty; Caragh Hamilton, Nadene Caldwell (Danielle Maxwell 66), Chloe McCarron (Megan Bell 82), Marissa Callaghan ©, Rebecca Holloway; Simone Magill (Kerry Anne Beattie 46), Lauren Wade.
Subs not used: Rachael Norney, Shannon Turner, Abbie Magee, Rachel McLaren, Ellie Mason, Joely Andrews, Keri Halliday, Emily Wilson.
Booked: Rebecca Holloway (65).
Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Caitlin Hayes, Louise Quinn (Chloe Mustaki 81), Megan Connolly; Heather Payne (Abbie Larkin 63), Jamie Finn (Lily Agg 85), Ruesha Littlejohn (Jessie Stapleton 63), Katie McCabe ©; Denise O'Sullivan; Kyra Carusa, Lucy Quinn (Izzy Atkinson 81).
Subs not used: Sophie Whitehouse, Grace Moloney, Hayley Nolan, Diane Caldwell, Tyler Toland, Erin McLaughlin, Ellen Dolan.
Referee: Veronika Kovarova (Czech Republic).
Attendance: 10,000 (estimate)
extratime.com Player of the Match: Lucy Quinn (Republic of Ireland)