Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland's Denise O'Sullivan dejected after the game.
# Heartbreak
Ireland's Euro qualification dream comes to an end as wait to reach first major tournament goes on
Ever-impressive Germany were 3-1 winners at Tallaght Stadium – though Vera Pauw’s side went down fighting.

Ireland 1

Germany 3

SO CLOSE, BUT yet so far. 

As the clock ran down and Ireland chased an equaliser against the all-conquering Germans at Tallaght Stadium, news of a Ukraine winner in Kiev came as the final blow and the Euro 2022 qualification dream fell just short.

Lina Magull (penalty) and Tabea Waßmuth had rattled the Irish net in the first half while it was 1-1 between Ukraine and Montenegro, before the ever-impressive Irish captain Katie McCabe delivered a glimmer of hope just before the break as the Girls In Green looked to pull off a minor miracle.

But word from Kiev and a third German goal — her second on the night, and in her career — courtesy of Waßmuth ended the dream, as the wait to reach a first-ever major tournament goes on.

Vera Pauw’s side needed to match, or better, Ukraine’s result as they welcomed group minnows Montenegro to Kiev, and knew that, more than likely, nothing less than a win against Germany would see their qualification hopes stay alive.

But the order ahead was an extremely tall one: a monumental upset required against the world’s second-ranked nation, who boasted a 100% record [7/7] through this Group I-winning campaign and had scored 43 goals without reply before tonight.

Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney, having enjoyed a rich vein of club form, was given the nod for her first competitive start between the posts, with first-choice Marie Hourihan absent from the matchday squad. 

Shelbourne midfielder Jamie Finn was also drafted into the XI for her second cap, with Liverpool captain Niamh Fahey returning after missing the devastating 1-0 defeat in Kiev.

Germany, meanwhile, who Pauw considers the best women’s team in the world, started a top side despite already having their qualification secured — though Lyon superstar Dzsenifer Marozsán was held in reserve, as they were much changed to the side that beat Ireland 3-0 in Essen.

Again, they were on the front foot at a breezy Tallaght Stadium, hitting the ground running and as expected, enjoying the lion’s share of possession from early doors. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg’s charges  found joy down the left early on, though Áine O’Gorman held firm as Ireland started with to a 1-5-3-2 formation with captain Katie McCabe reverting to left-back.

Early chances fell to Magull and Klara Bühl as the visitors threatened but Moloney was confident and assured in goal. Sitting deep and compact, Ireland were too in any possession, but disaster struck in the 20th minute.

What looked like a free-kick outside the box was waved on by referee Sara Persson, but the Swede pointed to the spot seconds later, adjudging McCabe to have fouled her fellow captain Svenja Huth. “It was a dive,” you could hear the Arsenal star clearly saying, but a penalty was awarded. While Moloney went the right way, Magul’s effort hit the back of the net.

While aggrieved by the decision, Ireland did their utmost to respond well, but Germany started to get a real stranglehold on the game. Moloney was certainly kept on her toes, as the ruthless Germans smelled blood. And their second goal, and 45th in this campaign, arrived in the 29th minute.

After producing a super save to deny Waßmuth from close range, Moloney was beaten by a rocket courtesy of the Hoffenheim star from outside the box, making it 2-0 just before the half-hour mark. While there was little the ‘keeper could do, numerous Irish defenders stood off as Waßmuth hit her first goal in her second international appearance.

From there, it looked like the Germans were going to push on as their threat from the set-piece continued, Sydney Lohmann and Waßmuth had further shots and Fahey cleared another off the line. 

But then just before half-time, Ireland got a lifeline in the form of a penalty. Payne did brilliantly to break away from Marina Hegering, showing confidence and composure through her hold-up play, before squaring to the ever-brilliant Denise O’Sullivan, who was taken down by the struggling Bayern Munich defender.

And having missed one in Kiev, McCabe found the top left-hand corner in style to pull one back — and give her side a glimmer of hope heading into the break as the Germans conceded their first goal of this campaign.

Marozsán was introduced on the restart and with one of her first touches, she sailed the ball over the bar as Germany looked to put the game to bed. Waßmuth saw a powerful effort rattle the crossbar shortly after, before yellow-carded Jarrett made way for Amber Barrett.

Ireland’s, perhaps, best chance from play came in the 63rd minute after excellent work from O’Sullivan and link-up play with Ruesha Littlejohn and the on-rushing McCabe down the left, but the latter’s shot pulled wide at the near post.

katie-mccabe-scores-a-penalty Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Katie McCabe scoring her penalty. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

O’Sullivan, on loan at Brighton & Hove Albion from North Carolina Courage, drew frees as the Girls In Green looked to do something special, but the Germans’ class was ever present; Magul’s 67th-minute effort which forced Moloney into an excellent save, a reminder of their brilliance.

Back-to-back Irish corners brought hope as the clock ticked towards the 80th minute, this onslaught of pressure frustrating the visitors. But neither were to any avail, the second ending in Payne — who brought muffled calls for a penalty moments before — lifting the ball high and just wide.

Just as 16-year-old Ellen Molloy came off the bench for her second late cameo, Ukraine went 2-1 up against 10-woman Montenegro in Kiev. Ireland obliviously chased their own game in Tallaght, and their dream came to a heart-breaking end.

And to hammer that home for those on the pitch, Waßmuth put the icing on the Germans’ cake with a spectacular 85th-minute goal as Ireland bravely went 1-4-2-4. O’Sullivan came within inches at the other end just after as her effort flew over the bar, but it wasn’t to be. 

To their credit, Ireland fought right to the bitter end, but they’ll look back on this campaign as a missed opportunity with the late draw in Athens and of course, the defeat in Kiev, coming back to haunt them.

IRELAND: Grace Moloney, Aine O’Gorman, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Jamie Finn (Ellen Molloy, 80), Niamh Fahey, Denise O’Sullivan, Ruesha Littlejohn, Heather Payne, Katie McCabe, Rianna Jarrett (Amber Barrett, 55).

GERMANY: Ann-Katrin Berger; Kathrin-Julia Hendrich (Pia-Sophie Wolter, 62), Marina Hegering, Lena Oberdorf,  Sydney Lohmann; Svenja Huth, Tabea Waßmuth, Linda Dallmann (Dzsenifer Marozsán, HT), Melanie Leupolz; Klara Bühl (Lea Schuller, 75), Lina Magull (Lena Lattwein, 75)

Referee: Sara Persson (Sweden).

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