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Dublin: 10 °C Monday 27 May, 2019

One job done but focus on 'whole different ball game' as revenge-hungry Dutch land

Katie McCabe, Denise O’Sullivan and Leanne Kiernan spoke to The42 after Friday night’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.

Ireland beat Slovakia 2-1 on Friday night.
Ireland beat Slovakia 2-1 on Friday night.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

JOB DONE. THAT was the general consensus in the tunnel after Ireland’s late 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Slovakia on Friday night.

“Absolutely,” the ever-impressive Denise O’Sullivan smiled as she limped slightly on her way to the team bus. “Three points.

“Tough game, a very tough game. They came here and they made it hard for us to play but I’m very happy with how we got three points in the end.”

That’s all that mattered on the night. It may not have been pretty but they had done what they set out to do in Tallaght Stadium, all be it the hard way.

An 87th-minute winner was required from super sub Amber Barrett to ensure maximum points after a mix-up between Marie Hourihan and her defence cancelled out the hosts’ previous lead.

It looked like it wasn’t to be, that that bizarre moment had cost Colin Bell’s side two precious points and dashed their 2019 World Cup qualification dream.

But even at 1-1 as the game reached the closing minutes, Ireland captain Katie McCabe never had a doubt that they could seal the deal in front of the 3,521 record crowd.

“I always had that confidence in us that we would be able to finish them off,” she tells The42. “It was just how we were going to do it.

“We needed to settle on the ball and get passing going and grow our confidence, which we did, and Amber, cool as you like, finished it off for us.

“It was massive for us, just to get them three points on the board. It was a hard-fought win in very, very tough conditions.”

The Kilnamanagh native added, when asked about leading her country out in her hometown: “It was a terrific feeling on a personal level.

“My friends and family here to cheer myself and the girls on was incredible. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and the fact it happened tonight was an amazing feeling for me.”

18-year-old Leanne Kiernan, who opened the scoring in the 69th minute with a powerful finish, echoed her captain’s sentiments that the Girls in Green could do the business no matter what.

Denise O'Sullivan with fans after the game Denise O'Sullivan with young fans after the game. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Obviously there’s always that bit of doubt,” she said.

“But I thought, as a whole team, we’ve a great character and we definitely fight for each other. That’s what we did and we got the win. I think we definitely deserved it.”

The three players along with Amber Barrett who took some time out to speak to The42 before setting off on the team bus agreed that there’s plenty of room for improvement though.

There’s work to do if they are to compete with European champions The Netherlands at the same venue tomorrow night (kick-off 7pm, eir sport). Bigger fish to fry.

The away leg in Nijmegen last November is one that will be remembered for years and years to come in Irish women’s football circles. An immense defensive display saw Ireland stun the Dutch in front of 12,000 fans and earn a valuable point.

With both nations sitting top of Group 3 on 10 points, revenge is on the cards as Holland come to Dublin. That said, the positive result on Friday night breeds further confidence into Bell’s charges.

“We’ll obviously get that confidence, have that bit of momentum but Tuesday is a whole different ball game,” 22-year-old Arsenal star McCabe concedes.

“We’ll have to do our homework come the weekend and see how we can improve on tonight, and hopefully do the business on Tuesday.”

“Obviously it’s the European champions we’re playing so we’re going to have to stay focused and not let the win in any way go to our heads,” Kiernan added.

The Ireland team stands for the national anthems That November night in Nijmegen. Source: Orange Pictures/Rob Koppers/INPHO

“We won’t, we’re not that type of team. We’ll just work hard and stay focused.”

And Leesider Denise O’Sullivan, who assured all that she’ll be fit and ready for the European champions’ visit after sustaining a dead leg, is relishing the challenge which lies ahead.

“It just builds our confidence,” she noted of the Slovakia win. “It keeps our unbeaten streak in these qualifiers going so we’ve just got to put our heads into Tuesday, just focus and try and get at least a point out of that game.

“It’s another huge game obviously. It’s going to be a lot tougher than we played today. We’ll be ready to go. They’re going to be well up for it. They’re a great team, we obviously know they’re European champions.

“I’m sure they can produce a lot more than they did against us in the last game as well so. We have to be a lot better on Tuesday than what we were today and push it more.”

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Emma Duffy

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