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Three points under the belt the main thing but relieved Ireland must improve

Colin Bell was pleased with his side’s result against Slovakia but the European champions are waiting in the wings.

Ireland WNT manager Colin Bell.
Ireland WNT manager Colin Bell.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

RELIEF IS ONE word that Ireland Women’s National Team (WNT) manager Colin Bell used after his side’s 2-1 win over Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium yesterday.

It looked like Ireland would have to settle for a share of the spoils — which would have come as a huge dash to their 2019 World Cup qualification dream — as the clock ran down but a moment of magic involving super sub Amber Barrett restored parity in the 87th minute.

Ireland grabbed the lead through Leanne Kiernan before Jana Vojtekova’s cross found the back of the net after a mix-up between goalkeeper Marie Hourihan and her defence just two minutes later.

But Barrett’s thumping effort handed Ireland all three points on offer as they march on, unbeaten in Group 3.

“The relief is there,” Bell said afterwards.

“I think it was definitely a deserved win but we made life difficult through conceding that very surreal goal. The first half, I don’t think we played intelligently with the wind. We didn’t get any shots on goal either. I’m not sure why but we’ll have to analyse that.

“The second half, we got ourselves together, refocused, regrouped and played a little more intelligently against the wind, although it was difficult.

“We went through with Leanne 1-0 up and then normally you have the game under control, it’s not like us to let a team back in and concede. But maybe we needed that now at this moment of time in our development to see how we were going to react.

“The girls were a little bit shocked of course the first couple of seconds but showed a fantastic reaction afterwards. The change with Amber coming on to give us a little bit more dynamics, and also showing, ‘I want to win this game and we are capable of doing that.’ She takes her chance and it was a brilliant goal.

“I was really, really pleased with the result and it keeps us with 10 points in the group, that’s the most important thing.”

Colin Bell celebrates with Diane Caldwell and Denise O'Sullivan Celebrations at the final whistle. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

With three points securely under their belt, there’s also room to improve, he knows, especially with The Netherlands coming to Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday evening.

In the away leg, Ireland stunned them in Nijmegen with a 0-0 draw in November.

“You can’t expect to beat the European Champions, that’s a fact,” he continues.

“For me, they’re the best team at the moment in the world, not just in Europe. They play some brilliant football. That’s the reality. But you’ve always got a chance.

“We’re going into that game with these 10 points and we have to find a way of getting a result against The Netherlands. They’ll be wanting to hammer us after that 0-0 to show the world that that really was a one-off.

“We’ve got to really step up now and take this challenge on and prove to us, and prove to them, that we are capable of getting another result against them.”

Bell added, thanking the 3,521 attendance: “We need everyone in the stadium on Tuesday, maybe a few more.

“For me now, the most important thing is to find the right positions for the players because we have important players out. We have to find solutions and experiment a little bit. We have to find a way now to set up really, really solid.”

Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring her sides first goal Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring the opener. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Without key players Stephanie Roche, Megan Campbell, Harriet Scott and Tyler Toland as it was, Aine O’Gorman was a late withdrawal from the side with ‘dental issues’ ruling the Peamount star out.

He’s unsure as of now whether she’ll be available for Tuesday, adding that Claire Walsh may be recalled after she was ruled out of the Slovakia clash through illness.

“We just have to rethink a couple of things now. It’s been a difficult situation for us. At the moment, we have a lot of young, talented players but we don’t really have that strength in depth at this level. Players will have to moved around, they put the team first basically.”

One example of such was Karen Duggan lining out at left-back last night. Exemplary from the get-go, she was awarded the Player of the Match accolade but usually operates in midfield.

Interestingly, her first start in the green shirt at senior level came in that position against the same opposition.

“Karen’s a fantastic young lady,” Bell concluded.

“She put herself in for the team because she knows we just don’t have any alternatives in this moment at this position at this level. We have to face that fact so she put herself into that position and did well.”

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Super sub Barrett Ireland’s hero as World Cup qualification dream lives on

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Emma Duffy

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