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'We’re going to watch the World Cup with a determination that when the Euros come around - we'll be there'

After missing out on this summer’s finals, Amber Barrett says the Ireland WNT will use their World Cup heartbreak to build for the future.

Ireland international Amber Barrett in action against Italy earlier this month.
Ireland international Amber Barrett in action against Italy earlier this month.
Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

EARLIER THIS MONTH, RTÉ and TG4 announced that they would join forces to televise every game of this year’s Women’s World Cup in France.

And while this is a monumental step in increasing coverage for women’s sport in this country, those involved in the Ireland WNT will surely have preferred to have watched on from an entirely different viewpoint.

Their dream of reaching a first ever major final ended last June after suffering an agonizing 1-0 defeat to Norway at the Viking Stadion.

In a campaign that had been kept alive with wins over Northern Ireland, Slovakia and a draw with reigning European champions, Netherlands, the loss in Stavanger signalled the end of the road for Colin Bell’s squad.

“It’s disappointing that we’re not involved,” Ireland striker Amber Barrett admits.

“I think we had some many injuries over the course of the 18 months that it was nearly impossible to qualify because we lost so many key players.

“From the first squad we had eight or nine injuries at stages throughout the whole campaign. Compare that to other teams.

“You can’t imagine them missing eight or nine players from their squad.

But, we’re going to be watching it with a determination that when the Euros come around in two years time that we’re going to be there.

“That’s what we’re working towards. We’ll be looking at teams closely and teams that are a step ahead of us.

“How do they manage games when they concede an early goal? If they do score an early goal, how do they see out the game? We have to learn from that.

“Hopefully we can take in something that they’re giving us and we can use it for our Euros campaign.

Every camp we go into is about learning something new – whether it be on the football field or reflecting and looking at our own side of the game.”

Barrett was on hand to score the winner in Ireland’s 2-1 win over Slovakia, her first senior goal for her country  and leaving she exits the campaign with some personal positives.

Ireland’s last outing, meanwhile, was a visit to Reggio Emilia to face Italy as part of the Azzurri’s preparations for June’s finals.

The exercise may have been more to the benefit of their Italian counterparts, but the Donegal native explains that manager Colin Bell has already been shifting the mindset in the group over the past nine months.

Katie McCabe celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates Ireland celebrate Katie McCabe's opening goal at Mapei Stadium. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

“With Italy, everyone looks at the result and says aw it was 2-1, it wasn’t that bad.

For a lot of people, maybe if they didn’t watch the game, it was a game we should have won and should have scored a good few goals.

“Everything we’d been working on during the week and opportunities that we’d been creating in training that Colin said would happen on the pitch did happen and we didn’t take advantage of that.

“It was definitely one of those that got away from us.”

She continued: “Since the draw came out for the Euros in February, every game we’ve played – Wales for example, Colin would look at it like we were playing a second seed.

Going into the draw, Ireland are third seeds, so going over and getting two results against Wales he’d say to us: ‘Well, you have four points from two games against a second seed.’

“So when we faced Italy, that was a top seed away from home.

He told us that these were the games we needed to get something out of if we were going to qualify.

“With Germany in our group, we need to get something away from home and get something out of the fixture over here. Those are two big tasks we’re going to have.

He’s pushing the emphasis and the importance on getting a result away from home against the big nations.

“It’s the best chance you give yourself to qualify.”

Speaking from her own experience in the squad over the past number of years, Barrett gave an insight into Bell’s management style and how she managed to adapt to the demands of the international game – coming from a GAA background.

“Colin is one of those people who wants consistency in performances.

“If it’s not going to be there, you can find yourself out of squads very, very easily.

“Luckily enough he’s trusted me and kept me in the squad for the last 18 months or two years.

It’s not that it’s like I’m in the squad now and I don’t have to work as hard. That’s not the case at all. You get in and you work hard to guarantee you get into the next one.

“I think I realised it when I came into the fold a few years ago and over the last year more so, I’ve been working really, really hard personally to try get fitter and sharper and stronger.

I think the work I’ve had to do over the last four or five months has started to come through a little bit.

“Of course it’s a tough and intense environment to come on to, but I was very confident with how I did the last day.

“There are aspects of my game I’d like to improve on. But in terms of being able to keep going and fitness levels, I don’t think I looked out of place.

“Now it’s about looking to try and get more than half and hour in the second half to now getting 90 minutes or getting an hour. Those are the chances where you begin to realise where you are fitness wise.

I have been doing a lot of work myself and trying to get up there fitness-wise. I want to be playing and I believe that I’m good enough to be playing.

“I think I’m more than just a 20 minutes or half an hour player. I think Colin knows that as well but I think he wants to get us to the level I’m able to sustain as well.”

Colin Bell Ireland WNT manager, Colin Bell. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Bell, who was speaking to members of the media this week, echoed these sentiments and identified Barrett as one of those putting in the extra hours to perform on the international stage.

“I’ve helped her with the personal one-on-one sessions and she has made a big improvement,” he said.

“That’s individual sessions but also making sure she is getting football sessions as well.

“To have that schedule that is getting four, five sessions a week. She can then fulfil her potential. It’s the same with Rianna [Jarrett], coming back after the injury.

“She needs to get up to that pensum so she can fulfil her potential. If she doesn’t get up to that schedule, it will be difficult.”

For now, the focus switches ahead to their European Championships preparation.

Ireland face Germany, Ukraine, Greece and Montenegro in Group I in a bid to secure a spot in the 2021 finals in England.

They start their qualification campaign against Montenegro on 3 September before welcoming Ukraine 8 October. Their final campaign game of the year is on 12 November when they travel to Greece.

Watching the best teams in the world this summer they will no doubt learn a thing or two – but come the fall, the real work begins.

UEFA 2021 European Championships qualifying – Group I 

2019

September 3: Montenegro (H)
October 8: Ukraine (H)
November 12: Greece (A)

2020

March 6: Greece (H)
March 11: Montenegro (A)
April 11: Germany (A)
June 5: Ukraine (A)
Sep 22: Germany (H)

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