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Morgan Treacy/INPHO Ireland manager Vera Pauw speaking to the media yesterday.
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'No fear of failure' as Ireland look to halt seven-game losing streak against Sam Kerr and Co
That said, Vera Pauw believes that ‘performance is a result’ in tonight’s friendly against Australia.

IT IS PERHAPS fitting that the Republic of Ireland face Australia before the quest to get there — and reach a first-ever major tournament — begins.

Vera Pauw’s side welcome the Matildas to Dublin tonight [KO 7pm, live on RTÉ 2] in what is a glamour international friendly as fans return to Tallaght Stadium. It’s looking like it will be a sell-out show, with most of the 4,000 tickets available amidst current restrictions snapped up as of last night.

The perfect setting to halt a seven-game losing streak.

This wasn’t exactly in the script. All going to plan, the disappointing run which began in March 2020 would have came to an end last Friday as Ireland’s World Cup qualifying campaign kicked off against Group A minnows Georgia.

That was postponed, though, and the wait to get on the road to Australia and New Zealand 2023 extended. So, for now, the Aussies come here for a first senior international clash between the sides.

It’s looking like we will see a much-changed Ireland XI, having been decimated by injuries and other issues. Lucy Quinn is expected to be catapulted straight in for her debut, with Savannah McCarthy also returning to the team after a lengthy absence and the goalkeeping situation unclear after illness hampered Grace Moloney’s hopes.

Sam Kerr and Co, fresh off reaching the semi-finals at the Olympic Games, are ranked 11th in the Fifa World Rankings. Ireland are 33rd. The Chelsea superstar will make her 100th appearance for her country in Tallaght tonight, and will surely be eyeing a goal or two to mark the occasion.

The Girls In Green, meanwhile, will be hoping for some of their own, looking to break a duck having not scored in five of their seven consecutive defeats to date. It’s worth noting that these losses came at the hands of higher-ranked opposition, but basic mistakes and not taking chances have often let them down too.

Pauw has always stressed the need to play against the best as they prepare for what will be a difficult qualification campaign.

They face a daunting start next month against the world’s second-ranked team, Sweden, and high-quality second seeds, Finland, with Slovakia also in their group. (The latter beating the Swedes just 1-0 surely offered hope.)

After a recent string of positive developments off the pitch – namely, equal pay and Sky coming on board as the first-ever primary sponsor of the women’s team – it’s surely now about delivering on it, and producing results.

olympics-football-women-finals-bronze-medal-match SIPA USA / PA Images Sam Kerr celebrates scoring for Australia. SIPA USA / PA Images / PA Images

“The moment will be there that it turns around and we will score goals,” Pauw said at one point yesterday with a click of her fingers.

Will that turnaround come against the Aussies, or is the performance more important than the result?

“The performance is a result,” she responded. “We have chosen Australia because they are playing at the level of Sweden and we are playing Sweden next month. So when we got this opportunity — better preparation you cannot get. Of course we wanted to play Georgia away and have a win under our belt, but that is not what has been. We have no fear of failure.”

But is there not danger that this losing run, or performance = result strategy Pauw is implementing, may impact players? It’s not exactly a secret that every footballer ever wants to win.

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“The moment that they are not growing any more, that is the moment to look into what is lacking. As long as every single game they grow,” Pauw noted, before mentioning a “scrimmage game” they played against Australia in Abbotstown on Thursday night.

It’s understood a mixed Ireland outfit defeated a second-string Matildas 2-1, with Kerr among the top stars watching the 3×25 minutes encounter from the sidelines.

“We played again at a higher level than against [recent friendly opponents] Denmark and Belgium,” Pauw noted. “So even with this squad, with so many changes, it means the whole of the women’s game, the whole group of players, because of the home-based sessions, because of the structure, also because of how the game is growing, how you are all here, everything, the whole game is lifting.

“The fact that we can be missing 11 players and still have the confidence that we can have a good game tomorrow, that shows it already.”

“Scoring 5-0 against an opponent that is ranked 50 in the world will not give you confidence,” she added. “You will think maybe that you get confidence from it, but the moment you get strong opposition against you, that will be all gone.

“We want to play strong opposition because if we play strong opposition, we will be better against weaker teams, and we can face the pressure of the top-level teams.”

katie-mccabe-dejected-after-the-game Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ireland captain Katie McCabe with Emily Whelan, Denise O'Sullivan and Áine O'Gorman. Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The veteran manager accepts that the public just see the score lines and results in black and white, they don’t see the pictures or behind-the-scenes progress and improvements.

“Yes, true, but I have no fear of failure. I’m not choosing opponents to have a nicer picture, and then losing against Sweden and Finland. Our task is to get ready for those games, and don’t forget Slovakia because they’re not a bad team.”

Are ye ready then?

“We will see tomorrow,” she smiled. “We’re missing three line-up (first choice) defenders with ankle injuries but we have to trust the three very good defenders that we have back in.

“We will see how it goes.”

That we certainly will. The previous Euro 2022 qualifying campaign still feels like a missed opportunity, but it’s time for a clean slate as the quest begins again.

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