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An improving Ireland side have 'gone up a few levels' in 2021

Vera Pauw’s team are now well-placed to earn a play-off spot as they pursue World Cup qualification.

Katie McCabe and Denise O'Sullivan lead the celebrations following Ireland's 11-0 win against Georgia.
Katie McCabe and Denise O'Sullivan lead the celebrations following Ireland's 11-0 win against Georgia.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A RECORD-BREAKING VICTORY for Ireland provides the main talking point for Paul Dollery, Emma Duffy and Gavin Cooney on the latest episode of The Football Family – a podcast that is available exclusively to The42 members.

Vera Pauw’s side ruthlessly disposed of Georgia last night at Tallaght Stadium, running out 11-0 winners to move into second place in Group A at the midway point of the qualifying campaign for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

While acknowledging the standard of the opposition as an obvious caveat, Gavin reckons Ireland deserve plenty of credit for the manner in which they responded to last Thursday’s disappointing 1-1 draw with Slovakia.

“I don’t think we should detract too much from the Irish performance because they started in exactly the right way,” he said. “The own goal after three minutes might have settled any lingering nerves that there may have been from the Slovakia performance and result.

“They didn’t resort to the tactics against Slovakia. They kept the ball, they showed composure, they showed precision in their passing and they showed great confidence.” 

On this day last year, Ireland were left to ponder what might have been as they concluded their European Championship qualifying campaign with a defeat to Germany.

That result ended their slim remaining hopes of reaching a first major tournament, but the damage had already been done when valuable points were dropped in Greece and Ukraine.

2021 began with non-competitive losses to higher-ranked opposition in Denmark, Belgium and Iceland, but Ireland have shown considerable improvement in recent months, most notably by upsetting the odds in victories against Australia and Finland.

While a dislodgement of Sweden from top spot is highly unlikely, Ireland are now in pole position to secure the play-off place that’s on offer for the team that finishes second.

The campaign resumes for the Girls in Green away to the Swedes in April. Following the return meeting with Georgia in June, a September double-header against Finland (home) and Slovakia (away) is sure to be decisive.

“The Slovakia result was obviously a slip-up,” said Emma, “but it’s a bump in the road and, looking back at 2021 in general, I think they’ve gone up a few levels, for sure.

“The heartache of the Euro qualifying campaign certainly lives on – I don’t think anything will come close to that night in Kiev – but it’s about avoiding more slip-ups going forward.

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“Ireland are in a decent position now. 2022 is going to be absolutely massive. September, in particular, is going to be something else.

“It’s about building on the foundations that have been laid already and hopefully securing that play-off spot.” 

You can hear the newest instalment of The Football Family, as well as accessing a huge array of other podcasts and newsletters, by becoming one of our valued members.

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