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Dublin: 11 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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'Our objective was to win and keep a clean sheet, and that is what we have done'

Interim Ireland boss O’Connor, captain McCabe and defensive duo Quinn and O’Riordan were pleased with the result against Montenegro.

Interim Ireland boss Tom O'Connor.
Interim Ireland boss Tom O'Connor.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THREE POINTS, CLEAN sheet, job done. 

That was the mutual feeling last night after Ireland’s Euro 2021 opening qualifier win over Montenegro at Tallaght Stadium, the hosts coming out 2-0 winners in front of a crowd of 3,423.

18-year-old Manchester City midfielder Tyler Toland set the tone in the seventh minute as she rattled the net, with captain Katie McCabe following suit in the second half from the penalty spot.

It wasn’t exactly the goal-fest many had hoped for, but starting out on a winning note is the main thing; as was stated time and time again afterwards. Montenegro were dogged and frustrated the hosts, but a win is a win at the end of the day.

Still without a permanent manager in place following Colin Bell’s departure in June, former assistant boss Tom O’Connor was again in charge on an interim basis last night.

And the Dubliner was upbeat about the result afterwards.

“Very happy,” he said. “That is what we set out for on Tuesday when we came into camp. Our objective was to win the match and keep a clean sheet, and that is what we have done. Regardless of who you play against, a clean sheet is very important.”

“I probably thought that,” O’Connor conceded, when asked if there was any added pressure on the Girls in Green after Germany beat second seeds Ukraine 8-0 this evening, and Montenegro 10-0 on Saturday.

“When I was thinking about the game, I thought, ‘Janey Mack, we might open up and get a few goals tonight’, but it wasn’t to be. They were very dogged, very resilient and played with two banks of five and a four.

“To score more goals, we need all our players to be on the top of their game. In the final third, we could improve. We wouldn’t be renowned for scoring lots and lots of goals, so that’s an area they need to work on.”

He added: “Match fitness could have been a factor tonight, but I’m not making any excuses. It was the final third that let us down in relation to scoring more goals.”

Three points, clean sheet, job done. 23-year-old skipper and Arsenal winger McCabe agreed.

“That was our target at the start of the week when we came in. Obviously, you look at Germany beating them 10-0 and this and that but our goal was just to get the three points and keep a clean sheet and I’m happy we done that.”

Defender Claire Walsh, who plies her trade in Germany, echoed that common sentiment.

“We set our objectives at the start of our training camp, that was three points and a clean sheet and we did that,” she said.

“Obviously there’s things we can improve on, we’ll reflect and analyse the game. We definitely need to improve going forward but the most important thing was getting off the mark. A home game in Tallaght, great crowd. Three points, two goals, clean sheet.”

And Louise Quinn added: “Three points, 2-0, clean sheet; always happy to start that way.

“We want to start as we mean to go on. We know that we can pick up that performance and try finish those games earlier, I think that’s really important for us. But that was the thing, we felt in control which is really important. 

“It was a really tough game for us. As much as they sat back, they didn’t give us that space. You’re trying to find your creative girls; Rianna [Jarrett], Katie [McCabe], Denise [O'Sullivan] and Tyler [Toland]; but they made it really, really difficult for us today.”

tyler-toland-celebrates-scoring-a-goal-with-louise-quinn Louise Quinn and Tyler Toland. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

O’Connor praised USA-based midfielder and “absolutely brilliant player” Denise O’Sullivan and second-half substitute Heather Payne, who “changed the tempo of the game” at the death, and was more than pleased with Toland’s performance, and first senior international goal.

“An early goal always settles the nerves and makes things a bit calmer and it was a good goal from a young player, young Tyler” he said of the Donegal rising star’s opener. “She took it very well. It is something we worked on in training; you need to shoot, if you don’t shoot, you won’t score.

“She has just signed for Manchester City, I think she is a girl for the future and she is only going to get better and better and better.”

“The crowd were magnificent tonight, brilliant,” the interim boss concluded.

“I think that’s a follow-on from the World Cup. I said to the girls going out, ‘Don’t forget the next generation of Irish players are out there, go and excite them’. At times they did.”

O’Connor has already revealed that he interviewed for the permanent job and stressed again last night that it’s all “in the hands of my employers” with an announcement imminent, while players added that the lack of permanent manager at the helm is not a concern at the minute. 

More on that on The42 later today.

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Emma Duffy

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