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'Keep believing. We're in touching distance, we will be back'

Ireland’s wait to reach a first-ever major tournament goes on.

Ireland skipper Katie McCabe with manager Colin Bell.
Ireland skipper Katie McCabe with manager Colin Bell.
Image: Andrew Halseid Budd/INPHO

IRELAND’S DREAM OF qualifying for the 2019 World Cup was dashed last night after a 1-0 loss to Norway, meaning the wait to reach a first-ever major tournament goes on.

It was a frustrating night in Stavanger for Colin Bell’s charges where nothing less than a win against Group 3′s top seeds would suffice but they were left on the back foot from early doors.

The Girls in Green were chasing the game from the 24th minute as Caroline Graham Hansen slotted home a penalty to make it 1-0.

That’s how the score would remain as the whistle sounded shortly after 93 minutes and although Ireland never gave up and their fight could not be faulted, the Norwegians’ dominance shone through overall.

“Of course it was a difficult game, we knew that coming over,” captain Katie McCabe told RTÉ as she reflected on the two ties against Norway, the first a 2-0 loss in Tallaght.

“Myself and the girls were looking to react from the disappointing performance, including myself personally, on Friday night.

“For me, I definitely should have slotted that (93rd-minute chance) home. I think we had chances all game. We’re just lacking that bit of composure in front of goal that we can learn from.”

Looking back through the campaign, it’s one that the rising squad can draw plenty of positives from. They’ve been weakened by injuries time and time again, with the likes of Stephanie Roche, Megan Campbell and Harriet Scott among those to miss long periods.

The 2017 phase was glowing by most accounts — there were away wins over Northern Ireland and Slovakia as well as that famous 0-0 draw with European champions The Netherlands in Nijmegen.

2018 meanwhile, has been much more of a struggle.

A late, late Amber Barrett goal saw them edge Slovakia in Tallaght in April but it’s been three losses in-a-row since then to bring the curtain down on their qualification chances.

Arsenal star McCabe remains upbeat though and looks to the future.

“We’ve been doing great away from home obviously, with the draw against Netherlands, and it’s only a 1-0 loss here so we are getting close, we’re in touching distance.

“We need to be pushing ourselves, getting fitter, and we can challenge to be making World Cups and European qualifiers in the future.

She added, on what she told the team after: “I was just telling them to keep believing.

I really, really believe in this group. We have a great set of players. Some very experienced players — Aine (O’Gorman) getting her 100th cap today and Izzy (Isibeal Atkinson) making her debut.

Louise Quinn dejected after the game Louise Quinn dejected after the game. Source: Andrew Halseid Budd/INPHO

“We have great strength in depth in the team and I know we can move forward. Since Colin has come in we’ve made (progress in) leaps and bounds which has been terrific. I know we can learn more and eventually qualify for European qualifiers next.”

Bell also lauded his side afterwards, saying that he was proud of their performance and they they were unlucky not to get a result.

“I said when we lost to Holland, I don’t want this ‘defeat mentality’ to creep in,” he added, also sharing his optimism for the future.

“That won’t creep in as long as I’m here but we can be proud of the performance and we should have got something out of this game.

“It’s those little elements that we have to improve on. The coach from Norway, Martin Sjogren, said we definitely deserved a result tonight.”

Although bitterly disappointed, players took to Twitter after to share positive sentiments.

“It’s hard to take when the dream has come to an end but couldn’t be more proud of this team,” Denise O’Sullivan said.

“Love these girls and the effort they put in every time they wear the green shirt. We will be back.”

“Tough lessons learned but we will be back,” McCabe assured, echoing her teammate’s words.

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Emma Duffy

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