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Republic of Ireland overcome the North to get World Cup qualifying campaign off to winning start

Man City full-back Megan Campbell proved influential on the night, as Colin Bell oversaw his first competitive victory.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND got their 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign off to a winning start this evening, beating Northern Ireland 2-0 at Mourneview Park in Lurgan.

Man City full-back Megan Campbell proved influential on the night. Her long throw resulted in the opening goal, as Rachel Furness unwittingly headed the ball into her own net on the brink of half-time.

Campbell then doubled her side’s advantage on 69 minutes, as her cross-shot found the back of the net to consolidate Colin Bell’s first competitive win since taking over from Sue Ronan as manager.

The Republic’s victory, however, came at a cost. Áine O’Gorman was replaced by Leanne Kiernan 20 minutes into the first half, after the UCD Waves attacker picked up an injury, while Stephanie Roche was also stretchered off in the dying stages.

Bell’s side’s opening goal arrived after a period of first-half dominance. Not for the last time, Campbell’s long throw caused havoc, and Roche’s subsequent header hit the cross bar just after the half-hour mark.

Another Campbell throw led to Diane Caldwell unwittingly clearing Louise Quinn’s header off the line five minutes before the break.

The hosts also had a chance to go ahead against the run of play just before half-time, as Marie Hourihan did well to save Kendra McMullan’s powerful header.

The Republic’s superiority on the night was finally reflected on the scoresheet in first-half stoppage time, as Campbell hurled the ball ferociously towards the penalty area, and Furness could only help it into the net with an inadvertent flick-on.

Quinn almost doubled the away side’s advantage after the break, forcing Northern Ireland goalkeeper Lauren Perry into a good save with her effort.

The Republic thought they had scored a second subsequently, but Roche’s finish from close-range was adjudged to be offside. Nevertheless, they sealed their victory with just over 20 minutes remaining, as Campbell beat Perry from distance.

The result leaves the Girls in Green in good stead, in a difficult-looking group, which also includes Norway, Slovakia and Euro 2017 champions the Netherlands, with only the first-placed side guaranteed to reach the World Cup in France just under two years from now.

It was a great performance from the team and I’m delighted to be going home with the points,” Bell said afterwards.

“We could have scored a few more goals than we did but we’ve learnt a lot from tonight’s game and I’m sure we’ll continue to improve as the campaign continues.

It is a real positive to be able to bring Tyler Toland and Amber Barrett on to make their debuts. It is a big moment for them and I’m sure they both have a huge future with the team ahead of them.

“We wait for news on Stephanie. We hope she hasn’t suffered a bad injury as she is a crucial member of the team.”

Northern Ireland: Perry, Newborough, Hutton, Nelson, Foy, Milligan (Brennan 68), Montgomery (McCarron 81), McMullan, Furness, Callaghan, Magill.

Subs not used: Sherwood, Rafferty, Lindsay, Carleton, Higgins.

Republic of Ireland: Hourihan, Scott, Quinn, Caldwell, Campbell (Toland 80), Duggan, Fahey, McCabe, O’Sullivan, O’Gorman (Kiernan 20), Roche (Barrett 86).

Subs not used: McQuillan, Walsh, Perry, O’Riordan.

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