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Ireland finish third at Pinatar Cup after O'Sullivan stunner against Wales

Vera Pauw’s side ended the tournament on a high with a 1-0 win in the third-place play-off.

Denise O'Sullivan celebrates after scoring in the 25th minute.
Denise O'Sullivan celebrates after scoring in the 25th minute.
Image: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

Republic of Ireland 1

Wales 0

A POSITIVE WEEK at the Pinatar Cup, ended on a high.

Vera Pauw’s Republic of Ireland finished the friendly tournament in third place after today’s 1-0 play-off win over Wales; Denise O’Sullivan’s excellent first-half strike the difference on the scoreboard at the sun-kissed Pinatar Arena.

But this was another encouraging – and dominant – performance from the Girls In Green as the focus now turns to the resumption of their 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign in April.

Controlled and disciplined throughout, Ireland recorded their 12th win over Wales in 15 meetings, their two-place superiority in the Fifa world rankings clearly evident.

After a 2-1 come-from-behind quarter-final victory over Poland, and narrow 1-0 defeat to Russia – both positive displays against higher-ranked opposition, with squad rotation throughout — Pauw reverted to a more familiar XI for their final outing in Spain.

Katie McCabe donned the captain’s armband once again, after centurion Niamh Fahey and Diane Caldwell had done so, with most of the regulars back in situ.

O’Sullivan’s stunning 25th-minute goal was the highlight of a bright first half for Ireland, though truth be told, it could have been more than 1-0.

Kyra Carusa had two good chances inside the opening five minutes; the US-born striker played in by Lucy Quinn first, and then Savannah McCarthy. Her first effort was easily claimed by Olivia Clark, but she brilliantly rounded the Welsh ‘keeper the next time only for her shot, from an admittedly difficult angle, to hit the side-netting.

With no commentary on the FAI TV live stream, Katie McCabe was particularly vocal, along with goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan. Not only did both talk the talk, they walked the walk too.

Everton shot-stopper Brosnan, who appears to have remained Pauw’s number one despite stiff competition in that department, was confident and assured throughout, dealing with all thrown her way and extinguishing any Welsh threats.

Jess Fishlock was among their liveliest operators, though Ireland looked solid and started to move through the gears as they grew into the game. “More pace” was demanded, with the ever-sharp O’Sullivan and Ruesha Littlejohn expertly pulling the strings in midfield.

McCabe, too, was heavily involved; her deliveries causing Wales problems, while she looked to have the freedom of the left side of the pitch at one stage on the counter-attack, though Jess Ziu – who otherwise impressed – opted to try go direct rather than release the Arsenal star.

After a sustained period of pressure, Wales caved in. O’Sullivan punished a Rhiannon Roberts mistake as she played it out from the back, and smashed home a half-volley from 20 yards for her 17th senior international goal.

“Swich on,” McCabe urged from the subsequent tip-off, and to their credit, Ireland never turned off despite Wales growing into the game more and more. Ceri Holland was a certain threat down the right, and flashed an effort across the face of goal off the back of a corner. At the other end, from one of Ireland’s, Niamh Fahey glanced a header just over to close the half.

16-year-old Abbie Larkin was sprung from the bench on the restart for her second cap, and the Shelbourne star was lively, enthusiastically blocking down Clark at one point. Liverpool goal-scoring ace Leanne Kiernan and DLR Waves goalkeeper Eve Badana were also handed chances to impress, with Amber Barrett coming on in the dying minutes.

louise-quinn-with-rachel-rowe Ireland's Louise Quinn with Rachel Rowe of Wales. Source: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

Kiernan’s cameo came after Heather Payne’s withdrawal; the Florida State University star limping off after a challenge from Rachel Rowe, though the injury concern didn’t appear quite as bad as first feared.

Clear-cut chances were few and far between in the second-half; Wales’ best coming in the 55th minute when Sophie Ingle shaved one off the bar, but Brosnan looked to have it covered. McCarthy, meanwhile, headed wide off the back of a Littlejohn free-kick, but refereeing decisions were ultimately the big talking point thereafter.

Miriama Bockova denied Ireland of two corners, much to the frustration of McCabe and co., with the second one a dead-cert after a block on Ziu’s cross-turned-shot which fizzed across the goal-face.

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Ziu produced a much clearer delivery as the clock ran down, her pin-point cross finding the head of Lucy Quinn, but the Birmingham City attacker directed the ball just over.

Wales piled on the pressure down the home straight as they went in search of an equaliser, but Ireland held firm and made sure not to let this one slip.

There were a few touch-and-go moments, with McCarthy conceding a free-kick on the edge of the box and then calls for handball against the Galway defender, though Ireland’s composure shone through as they held on.

Next stop Gothenburg, for the all-important qualifier against Sweden on 12 April. 

Where the bid to reach a first-ever major tournament will undoubtedly hit new heights.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan (Eve Badana, 63); Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Savannah McCarthy; Jessica Ziu, Ruesha Littlejohn, Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe; Heather Payne (Leanne Kiernan, 63), Lucy Quinn (Amber Barrett, 85); Kyra Carusa (Abbie Larkin, HT).

WALES: Olivia Clark; Charlie Estcourt, Rhiannon Roberts, Gemma Evans (Anna Filbey 60), Rachel Rowe (Lily Woodham 60); Ceri Holland (Elise Hughes 70), Sophie Ingle, Angharad James, Ffion Morgan (Kayleigh Green 70); Jess Fishlock (Helen Ward 70); Natasha Harding (Georgia Walters 60).

Referee: Miriama Bockova (Slovakia).

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Emma Duffy

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