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Dublin: 7°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Ireland make winning start to Euro 2021 campaign with McCabe and Toland on target

The Girls in Green were 2-0 winners over a gutsy Montenegro side in front of 3,423 at Tallaght Stadium.

Katie McCabe celebrates her second-half penalty.
Katie McCabe celebrates her second-half penalty.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Ireland 2

Montenegro 0 

A WINNING START, but not the goal-fest many had hoped for as Ireland opened their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium.

3,423 fans watched on as the Girls in Green started with three points and a clean sheet as a goal in each half from 18-year-old Manchester City midfielder Tyler Toland and captain Katie McCabe sealed the win on home soil.

With Tom O’Connor at the helm as caretaker manager following Colin Bell’s surprise departure in June, the Dubliner named a youthful, attacking squad ahead of the opener.

Tonight, he opted to start Wexford Youths striker Rianna Jarrett up top, with Arsenal winger McCabe, Player of the Match Toland and North Carolina Courage star Denise O’Sullivan strong attacking options behind her.

With top seeds Germany beating Montenegro 10-0 on Saturday, and seeing off second seeds Ukraine 8-0 earlier this evening, Ireland hoped for a big result at Tallaght.

Last time these sides met in 2016, the Girls in Green recorded back-to-back 5-0 and 9-0 wins, the latter a record-equalling feat of goalscoring. But tonight, just two separated the teams.

It was Toland who found the back of the net first with just seven minutes on the clock.

Montenegro settled into the game with the first real attack falling to them, but from there they opted to go as defensively as possible.

They sat deep and seemed to play at least five across the back at all times, as Ireland dominated possession from early doors and after an early threat or two from the hosts, Donegal native Toland soon cracked the code with her first senior international goal.

After good work from O’Sullivan through the middle, Toland found an opening and fired home a lovely goal from 25 yards with the aid of the post.

O’Connor’s charges dominated possession for the remainder of the flat opening period but were frustrated by Mirko Maric’s visitors, the most promising chances a McCabe free-kick that went just over the bar, as well as a Jarrett header and Louise Quinn strike which in quick succession were cleared off the line just before the whistle.

Just two minutes after the restart, another golden opportunity fell Ireland’s way but this time it was Toland who blazed over. 

It was as you were from there, Ireland throwing the ball around and dominating all over but Montenegro stood firm and kept them out. 

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denise-osullivan-is-tackled-by-maja-saranovic-and-aleksandra-popovic Denise O'Sullivan on the ball. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

That was until the 68th minute, when Ireland were awarded a penalty after Jadranka Pavicevic handled the ball in the area shortly after Quinn headed another effort straight at Ivana Cabarkapa.

Kilnamanagh’s own McCabe stepped up and rattled the net with the spot kick, driving the ball past Cabarkapa and into the left-hand side.

The visitors responded accordingly, hitting their first shot of the evening on target through Sladjana Bulatovic. And at the other end, Cabarkapa was forced into a double-save after a McCabe shot from distance and Jarrett’s follow-up.

O’Connor’s second-half substitutions came in the form of Claire Walsh, Heather Payne and Megan Connolly, leaving his real attacking threats on the bench.

They kept piling the pressure on in search of a third, with McCabe and Quinn missing two more huge opportunities from close range as the clock ran down.

But 2-0 was how it would finish, as Ireland welcome Ukraine to Tallaght next on Tuesday, 8 October.

With Germany and Greece the other sides in Group I, the pool winners and the three best runners-up will join hosts England in the final tournament.

Ireland: Hourihan; Scott, Caldwell (Walsh 75), Quinn, O’Riordan (Payne HT); Fahey (Connolly 79), Toland; McCabe, O’Sullivan, Gargan; Jarrett.

Montenegro: Cabarkapa; Popovic, Saranovic, Djurkovic, Djukic; Pavicevic, Bulatovic, Ramcilovic; Stanovic (Vujadinovic 90), Kuc (Bojat 81), Djokovic (Karlicic).

Referee: Catarina Isabel Ferreura Campos (Portugal).

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About the author:

Emma Duffy  / Reports from Tallaght Stadium

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