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Ins and outs as Pauw's Ireland look to end Pinatar Cup campaign on a high

Girls In Green ‘will not underestimate’ Wales ahead of tomorrow’s third-place play-off in Spain.

Heather Payne is back in the selection frame.
Heather Payne is back in the selection frame.
Image: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

VERA PAUW SAYS her Republic of Ireland side “will not underestimate” Wales ahead of their third-place play-off at the Pinatar Cup tomorrow.

The Girls In Green look to close out the friendly tournament on a high after “a productive week” in Spain, preparing for the resumption of the 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign.

Tomorrow’s meeting with Wales — ranked 33rd in the world, two places below Ireland — has been moved from La Manga to the Pinatar Arena, and kicks off at 2.30pm Irish time [live on FAI TV] ahead of the final between Belgium and Russia.

The Russians were 1-0 winners over a much-changed Irish XI in Saturday’s semi-final, after Pauw’s side enjoyed a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Poland last Wednesday. Both performances against higher-ranked opposition were certainly positive, with player development and squad rotation the focus throughout.

Pauw revealed on Saturday that she would go full strength with her team selection against Wales. “On Tuesday we go for the win,” she said. “We go for the best team. For each position, the best balance — a team that we would line up for a qualifier.”

Lightning-quick attacker Heather Payne is back in the selection frame, having overcome a groin injury to deem herself available. The Florida State University star, named 2021 Senior International Player of the Year, was substituted in the 53rd minute of the opener against Poland and subsequently ruled out of the Russia clash, though has recovered.

Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney has not; a shoulder injury keeping her sidelined. Liverpool star Megan Campbell, meanwhile, has returned home as a precautionary measure as she manages her load on return from long-term injury.

One of three debutants against Russia, Chloe Mustaki will not feature tomorrow for similar reasons as she continues her comeback from a cruciate ligament setback.

Covid-19 has affected the squad too, with two players in isolation having tested positive for the virus ahead of Saturday’s game. Both are understood to be doing well, while all players and staff are vaccinated and have returned negative results on repeat tests.

vera-pauw-speaks-to-her-team-after-the-game Pauw speaking to her squad after the defeat to Russia. Source: Martin Seras Lima/INPHO

And so, the focus remains on the football, as Ireland eye their 12th win over Wales in 16 meetings (they’ve also drawn three times, and lost once).

“We are looking forward to the game against Wales, which will close out the Pinatar Cup and a very productive week for our squad,” Pauw said.

“Our intention was always to use this week to work hard on what we will need to call on when we play Sweden in our next Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifier in April.

“The performances against both Poland and Russia were very good and it was particularly crucial that we got to have a closer look at many players in the Russia game. Developing all of the players is part of our journey and makes us stronger overall with more options in every position that we know that we can rely on.

“This past week has been fantastic in adding to our development and the hard work put in by the players and the staff is key to that. Part of that is ensuring that we manage the load put on the players so that they do not pick up new injuries but also that they are given the required time to recover from previous injuries.

“That is why we did not risk Megan Campbell and why Chloe Mustaki will not feature against Wales, even though she did so well in our last game.

“It is so important that we follow the return to play protocols to safeguard the players’ future and not take unnecessary risks. The players understand that and we continue to work with them so that we do not cause any further damage.”

“We will not underestimate Wales but we look forward to playing another good game and focusing on our key objectives,” Pauw added, as the crucial trip to Gothenburg on 12 April moves into full view.

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion), Eve Badana (DLR Waves)

Defenders: Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (Manchester United), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City), Savannah McCarthy (Galway WFC), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Chloe Mustaki (Shelbourne)

Midfielders: Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Ciara Grant (Rangers), Jess Ziu (Shelbourne), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Isibeal Atkinson (Celtic)

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Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Kyra Carusa (HB Hoge), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Leanne Kiernan (Liverpool), Abbie Larkin (Shelbourne), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

2022 Pinatar Cup

16 February

Match A1 | Wales 3-1 Scotland, Pinatar Arena
Match A2 | Slovakia 0-4 Belgium, Pinatar Arena
Match B1 | Republic of Ireland 2-1 Poland, La Manga
Match B2 | Hungary 2-2 (0-3 pens) Russia, La Manga

19 February

A3 | Wales 0-0 (1-3 pens) Belgium, Pinatar Arena
A4 | Scotland 2-0 Slovakia, Pinatar Arena
B3 | Russia 1-0 Republic of Ireland, La Manga
B4 | Poland 1-2 Hungary, La Manga

22 February

Final | Belgium v Russia, Pinatar Arena, KO 20:30 (19:30 Irish Time)
3rd Place | Wales v Republic of Ireland, Pinatar Arena, KO 15:30 (14:30 Irish Time)
5th Place | Scotland v Hungary, La Manga, KO 20:30 (19:30 Irish Time)
7th Place | Slovakia v Poland, La Manga, KO 15:30 (14:30 Irish Time).

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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