Cameron Hill reports from Tallaght Stadium
Ireland ended a seven-match streak in superb style, beating Olympic semi-finalists Australia 3-2 at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday evening.
Louise Quinn’s header early in the second half proved the difference as the Girls in Green secured victory over the Matildas, who sit 22 places ahead of them in the FIFA World Rankings.
Ireland boss Vera Pauw opted for a front three in Tuesday’s game against the Aussies, with Birmingham City’s Lucy Quinn making her international debut as she slotted in between Heather Payne and Amber Barrett.
With Ruesha Littlejohn injured, Savannah McCarthy came into the home midfield.
The hosts landed the first blow in the 4th minute. The Aussies gave away a free kick from 20 yards out and to the left.
Quinn stepped up and curled it sweetly into the bottom left-hand corner. Arnold perhaps should have been able to deal better with the shot, but it didn’t matter; Ireland had taken the early lead.
With the game springing into life, the visitors looked to find a goal of their own. They pressed hard in the early stages, but the Irish defence performed very well under the Aussie pressure.
It was a pity for Ireland, therefore, that perhaps Australia’s weakest effort proved to be the decisive one. Fowler, whose sister Ciara played for Ireland’s underage sides, took a shot which goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan failed to gather, and the ball bounced lazily over the line to level the game for the away side.
Australia never looked comfortable, however, as the home side continued to put the squeeze on their opponents.
A promising attack from the home side nearly resulted in an own goal from the Aussies; Alanna Kennedy thanked the stars that her wayward header only managed to hit the woodwork.
At the end of the first quarter, Ireland regained the lead. A poor clearance from the Aussies fell to Denise O’Sullivan, whose powerful shot took an unlucky deflection and sailed into the visitors’ net.
The home side weren’t prepared to simply sit back; they punished Australia’s high-line with a barrage of hanging passes but were unable to find that final pass.
Lucy Quinn was especially keen to double Ireland’s advantage and would’ve had an excellent chance - had Amber Barrett’s through ball not been a tad too fast.
Likewise, Australia were desperate to bring the game back level before the break. Their best chance came as centurion Kerr got behind Louise Quinn, danced past Jamie Finn in the Ireland box and took a shot which Brosnan could only parry away.
The rebound found another yellow shirt, but her shot was superbly blocked on the line by Savannah McCarthy.
But no good deed goes unpunished. A poor clearance header from McCarthy only found Fowler, whose shot took a nasty deflection off the Galway defender and looped over the head of Brosnan into the home goal.
Ireland began the second half with the same intensity as the first. Gustavsson switched out Arnold for Lydia Williams at half-time, but it had little effect on sealing the win.
Just three minutes in, Ireland won a corner and, helped in no small part by dreadful Aussie defending, the ball came to the mighty Louise Quinn, who headed home to put the Girls in Green back in front.
It was back to square one for the Matildas, although by this stage, the repetitive pattern of having to come from behind seemed to be taking a psychological toll.
The unforced errors began to stack up, as wayward passes and poor first touches led to visible frustration from some of the players.
In particular, Kerr’s patience was beginning to wear thin. She was well covered by Louise Quinn, and the sturdy Irish backline managed to snuff out any Aussie attacks before they really got going.
On top of this, Kerr appeared to have picked up a knock early in the second half and could be seen walking gingerly inside the Ireland half as the game wore on.
With the away side getting increasingly desperate, Ireland grew in confidence. By now, Quinn had the measure of Kerr, who picked up a yellow card after a clumsy foul.
Despite some brief promising spells, the Aussies couldn’t find that all-important equaliser, and Ireland saw out the three minutes of stoppage time to claim a famous victory in Tallaght.
Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan; Louise Quinn, Aine O'Gorman, Niamh Fahey; Heather Payne (Leanne Kiernan 87), Denise O'Sullivan, Savannah McCarthy, Jamie Finn (Diane Caldwell 87); Lucy Quinn (Emily Whelan 72), Katie McCabe, Amber Barrett (Niamh Farrelly 60).
Subs not used: Eve Badana, Grace Moloney, Harriet Scott, Claire Walsh, Ciara Grant, Aoibheann Clancy, Clare Shine, Rianna Jarrett.
Australia: Mackenzie Arnold (Lydia Williams 45); Clare Polkinghorne, Courtney Nevin (Angela Beard 66), Alanna Kennedy, Steph Catley; Chloe Logarzo (Clare Wheeler 53), Tameka Yallop (Charlotte Grant 66); Samantha Kerr (c), Emily Gielnik, Mary Fowler, Kyra Cooney-Cross.
Subs not used: Teagan Micah, Emma Checker, Jamilla Rankin, Jenn McCormick, Remy Siemsen, Winonah Heatley, Amy Harrison, Amy Harrison.
Referee: Paula Brady.
extratime.com Player of the Match: Louise Quinn (Republic of Ireland).