Cathal Noonan/INPHO Ireland coach Sue Ronan.
# Hammer Blow
Irish women's Euros hopes all but ended by Finland rout
Sue Ronan’s side desperately needed to claim the three points in Valkeakoski.

THE IRELAND WOMEN’S team’s hopes of qualification for Euro 2017 have all but ended following a heavy defeat at the hands of Finland in Valkeakoski this afternoon.

Sue Ronan’s side went down 4-1 to the hosts to make it four losses from their six qualifying games and sees their opponents open a six-point gap in the race for second.

Ronan’s charges needed to claim the win today to give themselves a chance of reeling in Finland as they trailed them by three points having played a game more and were also sitting on a significantly inferior goal difference.

With Group 2 leaders Spain streets ahead on 18 points, after six wins from six outings, Ireland’s only chance of qualification was with a second-placed finish.

But now, with just two qualifiers remaining, and Finland six points ahead and boasting a goal difference 13 strikes better than Ireland’s, Ronan’s side can wave goodbye to any hopes of playing finals football in the Netherlands next year.

Ronan made two changes to her side from the starting XI that lined up in their 3-0 defeat to Spain in Madrid last time out with Megan Connolly and Sophie Perry coming in for Stephanie Roche and Karen Duggan.

A Finland surge just before half time took the wind out of the Irish sails and they never recovered.

First, the superb Emmi Alanen put the hosts ahead with a close-range header on 32 minutes. And just eight minutes later, Jenny Danielsson doubled Finland’s lead with a tidy volley to heap misery on the Irish women.

Connolly had a couple of decent first-half chances but she failed to make the most of them, and Ireland had it all to do in the second half.

To their credit, they started the second half with plenty of gusto going forward. But as they pushed on in search of a goal, their defensive frailties were often exposed.

And on 70 minutes they were punished after some good work down the right wing by the Finnish women, Natalia Kuikka eventually tapping the ball home.

Stephanie Roche Cathal Noonan / INPHO Stephanie Roche pulled one back for Ireland. Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Roche then pulled one back on 76 minutes, just four minutes after being introduced as a substitute, as Ireland looked to mount a late, unlikely comeback.

But any hopes of a miracle recovery were eventually thwarted when Linda Sallstrom made it 4-1 with just three minutes of normal time remaining.

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