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Ireland beat Georgia 9-0 to ensure World Cup dream hits new heights

Captain Katie McCabe bagged a hat-trick and was one of six Irish goal-scorers as the record away win was equalled in Gori.

Katie McCabe scored a hat-trick.
Katie McCabe scored a hat-trick.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Republic of Ireland 9

Georgia 0

A WIN WAS expected, but the message was to temper expectations.

“People should not expect the same situation from when we played Georgia last year,” Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw said pre-match, referencing the record-breaking 11-0 hammering in Tallaght Stadium.

It wasn’t quite eleven, but nine will most certainly do as they equalled the team’s record away win. Goals from Katie McCabe (three), Louise Quinn (two), Megan Connolly, Niamh Fahey, Abbie Larkin and Denise O’Sullivan ensure the World Cup dream is more alive than ever with two games to go in Group A.

Today’s result against the minnows sees Ireland leapfrog play-off rivals Finland into second place ahead of September’s decisive double-header against the Finns and Slovakia. Happily in pole position as the bid to reach a first-ever major tournament roars on.

This rescheduled qualifier was in Gori, and posed a slightly different challenge for the Girls In Green with players out-of-season, the hosts strengthened by the return of key players that missed out last time due to Covid-19, and hot conditions to be contended with.

Pauw’s squad spent a successful 10-day training camp in Turkey acclimatising, but it wasn’t just as sweltering as expected — 18 degrees at 8pm local time. The poor condition of the pitch may have been more of a factor.

All of that considered, Georgia are rock-bottom of the group, with 41 goals conceded and zero scored in six defeats before today. They’re 124th in Fifa’s world rankings, while Ireland recently moved to a record-equalling high of 27th.

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Highly-sought after at club level and set for a move this summer, Amber Barrett was handed a big opportunity to lead the line as Pauw set out an expected attacking XI.

Established number one Courtney Brosnan started in goal, as expected. Diane Caldwell returned to the defence alongside Quinn and Fahey as Ireland lined out in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Heather Payne reverting to right wing-back and West Ham-bound Jess Ziu further up that flank.

McCabe owned the left, expertly linking up with O’Sullivan, as Ruesha Littlejohn and Player of the Match Connolly set up camp in the middle. (Jamie Finn — due to her yellow card tally, as Pauw confirmed — Stephanie Roche, Jessie Stapleton and Naoisha McAloon were the omissions from the match day squad.)

From the off at Tengiz Burjanadze Stadium, Ireland assumed control. O’Sullivan was lively as they settled in and looked to press Georgia’s defensive low block. They brilliantly unlocked it for the perfect start in the sixth minute; O’Sullivan finding McCabe in space after a well-worked team move, and the Arsenal star rifling into the roof of Tatia Gabunianet’s net.

That set the tone as the frustrated Georgians got physical.

Fahey’s first international goal came in the 12th minute of her 104th senior cap. The Liverpool captain poked home at the front post, getting on the end of Connolly’s lofty corner from the left.

By the 18th minute, it was three. This time a pin-point McCabe corner from the left was turned in at the back post by Connolly. 

Ireland heaped on the pressure, the green wave relentless. They toyed with their opponents, pulling and dragging them around the pitch, good in possession for the most part.

When the Georgians weren’t desperately defending, they were poor in attack. Lela Chichinadze, who was previously booked for a tackle on Ziu, and Ana Cheminava had two very tame efforts, as they resorted to hitting and hoping. At the other end, O’Sullivan and McCabe weren’t just as clinical as Ireland experienced a bit of a lull, sloppy at times.

The tempo slowed down, and the visitors struggled to create for a period. Until McCabe let fly from distance, and Gabunianet’s fingertips combined with the crossbar to deny her. The Georgian stopper produced a string of fine saves thereafter, her fist keeping Ireland at bay.

After a failed O’Sullivan penalty shout, the half was rounded off on a scoreline of 4-0 — the same as November in Tallaght. Ireland’s 10th corner of the game saw Connolly find an unmarked McCabe on the edge of the box, and the skipper lobbed home accordingly.

Ireland returned with more intensity, back in the driving seat after the half-time reset. Quinn made it five in the 49th minute; the Birmingham captain getting on the end of a beautiful delivery from Connolly with a trademark, powerful header.

Other moments of note early in the second half were Payne seeing yellow for a crunching challenge on Natia Danelia and Gabunianet twice keeping O’Sullivan, and then Connolly and Barrett, out.

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abbie-larkin-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-eight-goal Abbie Larkin celebrates scoring her sides eight goal. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Shortly after the hour-mark, Pauw rung the changes. A triple substitution saw Lily Agg, Lucy Quinn and 17-year-old Abbie Larkin introduced — and Agg, who sparkled with a goalscoring debut last week, almost repeated the trick but a goal with her opening touches was ruled out due to an accidental handball.

In the 69th minute, Brosnan was called upon for her first real save of the day. Cheminava had a go from distance, and the Everton ‘keeper derailed it from the top corner. Georgia looked to frustrate their visitors more and more down the home straight, resorting to damage limitation. 

They couldn’t keep out another Quinn header though, as she connected with a well-flighted, long-range McCabe free-kick in the 73rd minute. Or McCabe’s hat-trick offering two minutes later, as she brilliantly tapped in another stunning Connolly delivery.

The variation of goals was encouraging to see as was Ireland’s ability to dictate the game better in the second half. Their sheer dominance and ruthlessness really shone through as the clock ran down. 

After going close earlier, Larkin grabbed her first international goal in the 82nd minute. The impressive Shelbourne teenager headed home after a sweeping team move, where former club mate Ziu flicked on a Caldwell cross.

And O’Sullivan deservedly got her name on the score-sheet with a well-taken finish in injury time, rounding off a professional, workmanlike performance.

Job done, and done well. Onto September. 

IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan; Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell; Heather Payne (Lucy Quinn, 62), Ruesha Littlejohn (Lily Agg, 62), Megan Connolly, Katie McCabe; Jessica Ziu, Denise O’Sullivan; Amber Barrett (Abbie Larkin, 62).

GEORGIA: Tatia Gabunia; Nino Chkhartishvili, Tamar Kvelidze, Mariam Kalandadze, Natia Danelia; Teona Bakradze (Irina Khaburdzania, HT, Ia Alelishvili, 90 inj.), Nino Pasikashvili; Mariam Danelia (Nino Gujabidze, 62), Khatia Tchkonia, Lela Chinchinadze (Megi Gotsiridze, 83); Ana Cheminava.

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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