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'It does feel like the whole country is behind us. It's exactly what we need'

Ireland and Birmingham City defender Harriet Scott is eyeing a big finish to the Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.

Harriet Scott taking a throw-in against Greece.
Harriet Scott taking a throw-in against Greece.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

YOU SEE DENISE breaking with the ball and you can literally hear the whole crowd cheering her on. I don’t have to say anything because the crowd is doing it for us. It’s fantastic at the moment.

***

Ireland and Birmingham City defender Harriet Scott was understandably in high spirits after the Girls In Green’s crucial Euro 2021 qualifier win over Greece at Tallaght Stadium last week. 

A massive three points secured, as Vera Pauw’s side kept their bid to reach a first-ever major tournament alive. Shamrock Rover’s home ground, which has become a fortress for the team over the past while, was hopping afterwards, with a huge number of the 4,511 crowd staying put after the final whistle to meet their heroes.

Amber Barrett was in the up in the stand, surrounded by busloads of adoring young fans from her native Donegal, while captain Katie McCabe was in high demand, as per, as kids flocked to the barrier in the hope of getting a selfie with, or an autograph from, their favourite player.

“The amount of people that are behind us and the amount of people who are staying behind wanting to speak to you and wanting to say congratulations is massive,” Scott beamed after making her way into the post-match mixed zone.

It’s not just the people who are showing up, we are getting a massive following on social media now. It does feel like the whole country is behind us and it’s a massive push for us. It’s exactly what we need for the campaign.

Unbeaten and firmly in second place in Group I, the race to reach England 2021 is well and truly on. Ireland trail leaders Germany by two points, while they’re six points clear of Greece after last week’s victory.

With second seeds Ukraine yet to get off the mark, Pauw’s Ireland are in pole position to finish second, at least, as things stand. (The group winners and three best second-placed sides qualify automatically, while the six other runners-up head for play-offs.)

And English-born Scott, who has Dublin and Donegal roots and qualifies for Ireland through her grandparents, knows her side have to get to the play-offs, at least, to build on the support and heighten the momentum around women’s football on these shores.

“Absolutely,” she nodded. “It’s the least the fans deserve. With the squad that we have, it’s potentially the best we’ve ever looked in terms of qualifying.

“I think as long as we stick to our task and don’t worry about anyone else, that’s exactly what we need to be able to qualify. We focus on what we need to do as well as we can, create those chances, [keep a] clean sheet and just focus on each game as they come.

Obviously we don’t want to get too carried away, but that is the target — we want to qualify, we want to give ourselves the best chance to qualify.

Still drawing her breath after a nervy end to proceedings against the Greeks — who rescued a last-gasp draw with Ireland earlier in the campaign — Scott was pleased with the performance; how her side absorbed pressure and saw out the 1-0 victory.

manchester-city-v-birmingham-city-fa-womens-super-league-the-academy-stadium Scott in action for Birmingham City in December 2018. Source: EMPICS Sport

“It’s not nice to play in the last five minutes because it’s just pure stress, you are constantly looking at the clock, but in this game, it was fantastic,” the 27-year-old noted, with a nod to “fantastic” Player of the Match Ruesha Littlejohn on her return.

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“I felt everybody was pulling together, everybody knew their roles, we all had plans and everyone stuck to it. Everybody has been in a really positive head space leading up to this game and I had full confidence that we would get the three points.”

And it’s now about bringing the same approach into their next crunch tie against Montenegro tomorrow [KO 3pm, live on RTÉ].

When the sides met in the opener, Ireland were under the interim management of Tom O’Connor and won 2-0, but now with a much more settled set-up, they’re going with a good frame of mind.

“The perfect result, to get three points, and then onto the next one,” Scott continued. “These 90 minutes have gone…

“The way they [Montenegro] played against us here was kind of similar to Greece, in that they sat off us a little bit and we had to break them down.

“But I think we need to make sure we don’t get frustrated, to make sure we keep our frustrations from everything else and actually use the creative players we have, like Ruesha [Littlejohn], Denise [O'Sullivan], Clare Shine when she is on, Amber [Barrett], and allow those players to give us chances.

We need to keep moving it, be patient but do things with a purpose. That’s the main thing.

With more big qualifiers coming up after Montenegro — Germany away in April, Ukraine away in June and a home tie with the Germans in September — Scott has no qualms that her side will focus purely on tomorrow, and not get ahead of themselves.

“We can’t underestimate any team,” the Blues star concluded. I think any team in the group, you can see that they can get results. Any team in the group is potentially a banana skin that you could slip up on.

“We just need to make sure the job we are doing is the job we set ourselves throughout the week. Our focus will be fully be on that game, we’ll be fully invested in it, we’ll be fully trying to make sure we can make the most out of it and get the three points we need to get, come home and be happy.

“But we need to concentrate and that’s what we are doing now.”

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Emma Duffy

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