Ireland and Hungary before their game in September. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Opposition Guide

Who are Ireland facing in their final Nations League double-header?

Hungary are up first at Tallaght Stadium tomorrow, before Tuesday’s trip to Belfast to face Northern Ireland.

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland women’s national team are gearing up for their final games of an historic 2023.

Under the interim watch of Eileen Gleeson, the Girls In Green have already secured Uefa Nations League promotion with four wins from four in Group B1.

They’re eyeing a clean sweep, as Hungary come to Tallaght Stadium tomorrow [KO 7.30pm, RTÉ2] before the short trip to Windsor Park to face Northern Ireland on Tuesday.

That will bring the curtain down on their most active year yet, with 14 games played in total across the World Cup, Nations League and international friendlies.

While Ireland are seeking a 100% record in the group, Hungary and Northern Ireland are chasing promotion play-offs. Each side can progress if they win and the other does not. Hungary have a slight advantage: Northern Ireland finish in third place if they draw and the Hungarians win, subsequently missing out.

Ireland Group B1

Here’s a guide to Ireland’s upcoming opposition.


World Ranking: 42nd

Manager: Margret Kratz

Captain: Evelin Fenyvesi

League B Group B1 results / fixtures

2nd place: One win, two draws, one defeat

  • 22 September: Albania 1-1 Hungary
  • 26 September: Hungary 0-4 Republic of Ireland
  • 27 October: Hungary 3-2 Northern Ireland
  • 31 October: Northern Ireland 1-1 Hungary
  • 1 December: Republic of Ireland v Hunagry
  • 5 December: Hungary v Albania.

Hungary are the highest-ranked of Ireland’s opponents in the group, with the 18-place chasm in the Fifa World Rankings clear for all to see. It was one-way traffic in Budapest in September, but the hosts were without some key players that night due to illness.

They set out to frustrate Ireland, but Gleeson’s side eventually broke them down. In attack, they’re the second most proficient in the group with five goals, though their defensive record is similar to their struggling counterparts.

margret-kratz-and-eileen-gleeson Hungary manager Margret Kratz and Ireland interim head coach Eileen Gleeson. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Margret Kratz’s squad predominantly comprises of home-based players, with others dotted across her native Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.

This will be the ninth meeting of the sides, with Ireland winning four, Hungary victorious in two, and two clashes finishing all square. Yet to qualify for a major tournament, the Hungarians did enjoy a run of friendly wins during the summer, but it’s been an up-and-down 2023 without star striker Fanny Vágó.

Gleeson labelled them a “difficult opponent” as she warned against complacency in the build-up to the away leg, and touched on their set-up in today’s press conference.

“I’m not too sure they will be in a low block,” the interim manager said. “They’ve been assertive in their press and pressed high, with two [forwards]. Initially, with us, it was a five, a four and one.

“We’ll be prepared for every eventuality but I do think Hungary will be a little bit more assertive in their starting position when they come out.”

Northern Ireland 

World Ranking: 47th

Manager: Tanya Oxtoby

Captain: Marissa Callaghan

 League B Group B1 results / fixtures

3rd place – one win, one draw, two defeats

  • 24 September: Republic of Ireland 3-0 Northern Ireland
  • 26 September: Northern Ireland 1-0 Albania
  • 27 October: Hungary 3-2 Northern Ireland
  • 31 October: Northern Ireland 1-1 Hungary
  • 1 December: Albania v Northern Ireland
  • 5 December: Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland.

It’s been a mixed bag for Northern Ireland as they find their feet under new manager Tanya Oxtoby. Emma Hayes’ former assistant at Chelsea, Oxtoby comes across as an impressive operator with her will to win and unwavering ambition striking.

The Republic’s 3-0 win at the Aviva Stadium was her first game at the helm, and you’d expect improvements to have been made in the interim. The visitors really struggled at Lansdowne Road, finishing with zero shots, never mind any on target.

the-northern-ireland-team-photo The Northern Ireland XI at the Aviva Stadium. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

The only other team in Group B1 to have featured at a major tournament in Euro 2022, the North suffered an alarming slide thereafter.

Like Hungary, roughly half of Northern Ireland’s current squad is home-based and part-time.  Championship is generally their highest level of representation, though Aston Villa’s Simone Magill (WSL) and Rebecca Holloway of Racing Louisville (NWSL) are outliers. Rachel Furness, who also plays in the English top flight with Bristol City, is absent through injury.

At a media day earlier this week, the Ireland players focused more on their Northern opponents ahead of next week’s historic clash at Windsor Park.

“Northern Ireland always give us a tough game,” Denise O’Sullivan said at one point. “They’re a good team, they’re strong, they have their strengths.”

“Northern Ireland have a good squad,” Megan Connolly added. “I think they’ve gotten better since the start of the campaign with their new manager.

“It’ll be a tough game, but obviously we’re focused on Friday first, get that one done, get a good performance, get a win and then move on to Tuesday.”

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