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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018

Four-star Republic of Ireland end campaign on a high with comfortable win over the North

Leanne Kiernan and Katie McCabe got the goals for Colin Bell’s side.

Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring.
Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Republic of Ireland 4

Northern Ireland 0

Paul Fennessy reports from Tallaght Stadium

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND outclassed their Northern neighbours with a 4-0 win in front of 1,603 spectators at Tallaght Stadium this evening.

Player-of-the-match Leanne Kiernan and Katie McCabe grabbed two goals each, as Colin Bell’s team ran out easy winners in their final World Cup qualifier.

The game was effectively over inside half an hour, with the Girls in Green storming into a three-goal lead that their shot-shy opponents simply had no answer for.

With qualification hopes ended in Norway last June and third place assured in their group, Ireland were looking to finish their campaign on a high and end a run of three successive defeats.

The North, meanwhile, were seeking revenge following a 2-0 loss to their neighbours in the reverse fixture, in addition to improving on a disappointing run that has seen them lose all but one of their matches in qualifying so far.

In addition to the inclusion of a number of experienced players, Cork City stopper Amanda Budden was handed a senior debut by Bell in the absence of the injured regular number one Marie Hourihan, while in attack, Rianna Jarrett earned her third cap and first start at international level. 

The home side began with a 3-5-2 formation, with Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn and Diane Caldwell as the centre-backs, and Heather Payne and Harriet Scott in the wing-back roles.

Leanne Kiernan celebrates scoring with her teammates Leanne Kiernan celebrates with team-mates. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland got off to the perfect start on four minutes. What looked like a hopeful ball upfield by Diane Caldwell found the onrushing Leanne Kiernan. The teenager striker demonstrated her lightning speed getting to the ball ahead of goalkeeper Jacqueline Burns and producing a fine lobbed finish to boot.

The visitors were fortunate to avoid another setback shortly thereafter. Kerry Montgomery was booked for a poor high challenge on 17-year-old midfielder Tyler Toland that could easily have resulted in a red card and left the youngster needing treatment.

Just before the 10-minute mark, the North had a rare half chance. Billie Simpson won the ball off Kiernan down the right. Her subsequent cross found Marissa Callaghan at the far post, whose shot from the edge of the area went just over.

On 12 minutes, the hosts doubled their advantage. Burns failed to hold Toland’s attempt from distance. The ball then fell to Jarrett, who teed up captain Katie McCabe to blast home an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net from just inside the box.

On 23 minutes, the lively Kiernan almost scored her second. The striker got on the end of a McCabe corner, steering a volley narrowly wide.

Burns continued to be a nervy presence in goals, as she only collected a tame Harriet Scott effort from distance at the second attempt.

The Republic were thoroughly in command now and made it 3-0 on 27 minutes. Denise O’Sullivan marched confidently through midfield, as she was allowed far too much time and space to the play through Kiernan on goal. The outcome never looked in doubt thereafter, as West Ham’s recent signing slotted the ball past Burns.

Much of the remainder of the first half was uneventful. Ireland continued to dominate possession and territory, looking the far superior side, but with the outcome no longer in doubt, the game lacked the intensity of the earlier stages.

Katie McCabe celebrates scoring with Harriet Scott Republic of Ireland's Katie McCabe celebrates scoring the second goal of the game with Harriet Scott. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Six minutes into the second period, the Republic came close to a fourth. McCabe collected Payne’s throw down the left, capitalising on some lax defending and evading her marker, before finding the side netting with a powerful shot.

Minutes later, the Arsenal star had better fortune, as her shot deflected into the path of Scott. The Birmingham defender got to the ball ahead of Burns, who was booked for rashly taking down the wing back. The 22-year-old McCabe then made no mistake from the ensuing spot kick, hitting it down the middle, with the goalkeeper diving to her left.

Just after the hour mark, Karen Duggan replaced Toland. The new introduction slotted in at centre back, with Fahey switching to a more advanced holding midfield role.

As the game approached its final quarter, it was looking all too easy for the home side. There were times where the match resembled a keep-ball session for the hosts, with little in the way of goalmouth action at either end.

A series of changes further disrupted the pattern of the play, though there was a loud ovation with 15 minutes remaining, as 16-year-old Jessica Ziu came on to replace a tiring Jarrett.

Kiernan almost got a hat-trick on 82 minutes. Fahey set her up with a perfectly weighted through pass, but her low shot across goal came back off the post. That moment was as close as it got for Ireland in the final minutes, as they saw out a convincing win that bodes well for the upcoming Euro 2021 qualifying campaign.

Ireland: Amanda Budden; Heather Payne, Harriet Scott, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell; Katie McCabe (c), Niamh Fahey, Denise O’Sullivan, Tyler Toland (Duggan 61); Leanne Kiernan (Barrett 88), Rianna Jarrett (Ziu 76).

Subs: Grace Moloney, Karen Duggan, Amber Barrett, Aine O’Gorman, Jessica Ziu, Claire O’Riordan, Isibeal Atkinson.

Northern Ireland: Jacqueline Burns; Billie Simpson, Jessica Foy, Laura Rafferty, Julie Nelson; Lauren Wade (McKenna 72), Kerry Montgomery (Bell 61), Caragh Milligan, Sarah McFadden (Holdaway 74); Simone Magill, Marissa Callaghan (c). 

Subs: Emma Higgins, Catherine Hyndman, Freya Holdaway, Louise McDaniel, Megan Bell, Rebecca McKenna, Emma McMaster.

Referee: Angelika Soeder (GER).

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Paul Fennessy

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