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Dublin: 5°C Tuesday 13 April 2021

'A bridge too far' as Ireland's excellent U19 Euro run ended by reigning champions

A 3-0 loss to Spain yesterday means the dream of reaching next summer’s finals in Scotland is over.

Ireland U19 manager Dave Connell.
Ireland U19 manager Dave Connell.
Image: FAI.

A WIN WAS needed but it was a step too far for Ireland’s young guns in their quest to qualify for the Women’s U19 European Championships yesterday.

It all came down to this for Dave Connell’s side in the Elite Round in Spain: after back-to-back 4-0 victories over Hungary and Serbia, the hosts and reigning champions stood in their way of reaching this summer’s finals in Scotland.

And Spain proved too strong for the Girls in Green in Santiago de Compostela as they were 3-0 winners.

Two goals from Claudia Pina in the space of three minutes just before the half-hour mark ultimately sealed the deal before things went from bad to worse for Ireland when they lost Galway WFC defender Rachel Baynes to injury shortly after.

To their credit, they battled gamely but the killer blow came just after the restart as Eva Navarro’s cross was put in the back of the net by substitute Aoife Slattery.

Ireland, captained by Brighton youngster Megan Mackey, never gave up and created several chances in the second half but a consolation goal never came.

It comes as a disappointing end to an excellent campaign. Three wins from three last year means five wins and five clean sheets before yesterday’s heartbreaking defeat.

ireland meg Megan Mackey (10) captained the side. Source: FAIreland Twitter.

So absolutely no complaints from Connell afterwards.

“We did very well in Lithuania in the Qualifying Round and did very well over here,” he said.

“Today proved a bridge too far. Spain were exceptional. The better team won on the day.”

One must take the positives, and one that’s glaringly so is the fact that half of the squad that travelled to the Elite Round in Spain — Mackey included — are eligible once again for the U19 grade next year.

“Hopefully this will stand to the girls next season,” Connell concluded.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the girls who have finished with the Under-19 team today. I hope they go on now and play with the seniors.”

Republic of Ireland: Kelly (Turner 74); Baynes (Slattery 36), McGovern, Doyle, Lobato; Ruddy (Brady 74), Singleton (Donovan 66), Mackey (captain); McEvoy, Brady (Reynolds 66), Payne.

Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 19 squad

Goalkeepers: Erica Turner (DLR Waves), Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne)
Defenders: Sadhbh Doyle (Galway WFC), Roisin McGovern (DLR Waves), Rachel Baynes (Galway WFC), Aoife Slattery (Wexford Youths), Leah Brady (Galway WFC), Katie Burdis (DLR Waves)
Midfielders: Lucia Lobato (Galway WFC), Megan Mackey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Chloe Singleton (Galway WFC), Tiegan Ruddy (CCSU), Sinead Donavan (Galway WFC)
Forwards: Alannah McEvoy (Shelbourne), Carla McManus (Kilkenny United), Kelly Brady (World Class), Heather Payne (Bristol City), Niamh Reynolds (Reading) Michelle O’Driscoll (Daytona State University), Keelin McEntee (DLR Waves)

- Quotes from the FAI

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Emma Duffy

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