Caitlin Hayes fighting words in aftermath of English clash: ‘Ireland is a country that's got great fight in it, it's striving to be feared and respected in women's football’

Caitlin Hayes plays a pass against England in the Aviva Stadium, Tuessday 9 April 2024

Caitlin Hayes plays a pass against England in the Aviva Stadium, Tuessday 9 April 2024 Credit: Clare McCahill (ETPhotos)

Macdara Ferris reports from the Aviva Stadium

Seven months after her emotional Ireland debut in the Aviva Stadium, Caitlin Hayes was back this week on the Lansdowne Road turf earning her tenth cap, this time taking on England.

While the crowd on Tuesday was 3,000 fewer than the 36,000 or so for that Northern Ireland game last September, the noise was up a notch or two to reflect the step up in quality of opposition with England in town.

Hayes was happy with some elements of Ireland’s play in the 2-0 defeat to the Lionesses but was disappointed with her team’s slow start to the game against the European champions.

Fighting talk

"We can just take the positives from the second half but also correct the first half,” said Hayes about what they can take from the qualifier. “It's something that we're going to have to grow from and just get going from the off. As soon as someone throws a punch, it shouldn't take us till then to fight back. It's definitely something we're going to work on. We'll come back hopefully bigger, stronger and throw those first punches.”

Reflecting on the calibre of opposition Ireland have faced in this recent window, the 28-year-old defender said: "We're not going to be arrogant and not pay attention to the opposition at all but at the same time we've got quality within our team and that's something that we can't forget.

"We have gone up a massive level. These are one of the best teams in the world and we went toe to toe with them, especially in that second half.

“Ireland is no longer the underdog, it's no longer just a small nation that doesn't really compete. It's a country that's got great fight in it, it's striving to be one of the best, to be feared and to be respected in women's football. 

“I think that's something we can take confidence in, that we've made small steps, going toe to toe with teams like tonight, going toe to toe with France, and that's something we hope to move forward with and impose ourselves on Sweden."

In the next window at the end of May, Ireland will play home and away against Sweden.

Mixing with the best

The Girls in Green’s record against England now is played eight lost eight and their only goal came in their very first encounter way back in 1978. Hayes had a chance to grab a goal for Ireland in the second half.

“I’m slightly disappointed, especially with myself. I had opportunities to get the team on the scoreboard but you're mixing with the best and sometimes you've just got to take the positives that you can and grow from the experience, and that's exactly what we'll do.

"I didn't really think when it came to it. I just put my head on it and hoped it would hit the back of the net. It probably wasn't the best effort from myself. I'll go away and take accountability for that, work on it and hopefully produce a goal next camp."

Eileen Gleeson and her coaching staff looked for more from their team in the second half and the players responded. So what was said at half-time?

"I think it was more so communicating with maybe the thing we weren't doing that great in terms of the press, who should step, who should stay. Just amending those tiny little changes.

"Like I said, you get punched and you want to punch back. We amended the tactics and then we went out there and went toe to toe to create for ourselves. Like you've all commented on, we need that from the first whistle."

On being back in the Aviva Stadium, the Celtic defender said “you can't ask which is better, here or Celtic Park! Both are just honestly our of this world, and to have the backing of the fans, it's the stage this team deserves to be on.

"They've worked to be on this stage and it's a stage we deserve to stay on. Every opportunity is a pleasure, especially in front of these fans." 

More post-match reaction:Eileen Gleeson and Denise O'Sullivan