Alamy Stock Photo Denise O'Sullivan on the ball for North Carolina Courage (file pic).
# weekend wrap
Denise O'Sullivan's mixed emotions, Irish history-makers and a deepened injury crisis
A run-down of Vera Pauw’s overseas players from the last weekend of action before next week’s all-important World Cup play-off.

IT WAS A case of mixed emotions for Denise O’Sullivan over the weekend as her North Carolina Courage side fell short in their bid to reach the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL] play-offs.

Now, her attention turns to her country’s, as the Republic of Ireland gear up for their World Cup play-off away to Scotland or Austria next Tuesday, 11 October.

O’Sullivan’s Courage were held to 0-0 draw by San Diego Wave on Saturday, failing to score for the first time in 14 games as their progression hopes came to a gut-wrenching end.

“It truly hurts not to have made it to the play offs, but I’m very proud of my team and the progress we have made,” the Cork midfield maestro wrote on Twitter last night.

“Thank you to the fans who have stuck by us every step of the way. We will be back. Already can’t wait for 2023.” 

While injury blows have dominated Ireland’s build-up to next week’s historic showdown, there were some positive news stories for Vera Pauw’s overseas players over the weekend; no shortage of those coming in the Continental Cup.

Megan Campbell scored her first goal for Liverpool — though one would hope the injury-plagued defender’s half-time substitution was precautionary (also Niamh Fahey did not play) — while Chloe Mustaki opened her account for Bristol City.

The Dubliner was on target in the 78th minute of the Robins’ 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. “The smile says it all,” she posted on social media afterwards.

Naoisha McAloon and Saoirse Noonan helped Durham win their first-ever penalty shoot-out, overcoming Sheffield United 5-3 on spot kicks after a 3-3 draw on home soil.

Noonan came on for the last 10 minutes of normal time, before converting her penalty while former Peamount United goalkeeper McAloon made the decisive save after an impressive performance.

Elsewhere, there was joy for Birmingham City’s five-strong Irish contingent as the Championship outfit beat Brighton & Hove Albion of the Women’s Super League.

Lucy Quinn scored the Blues’ third goal in their 3-2 win, with Harriet Scott and Jamie Finn providing assists for the other two. Louise Quinn captained the side and Eleanor Ryan Doyle was introduced as a second-half substitute. On the flip-side, there was disappointment for Megan Walsh and Megan Connolly with the Seagulls, the former in goal and the latter out injured.

Jess Ziu suffered similar cruel fate in West Ham’s penalty shootout victory over London City Lionesses, the 20-year-old winger stretchered off and the FAI this morning confirming that knee injury rules her out of the Ireland squad. She joins Connolly (ribs), Ruesha Littlejohn (foot), Leanne Kiernan (ankle), Ellen Molloy (knee) and long-time absentees Savannah McCarthy and Aoife Colvill (both ACL) on Pauw’s lengthy injury list.

Hayley Nolan, Lily Agg — Nolan named Player of the Match after scoring her penalty, and Agg also putting one away but missing the last kick — and Izzy Atkinson all featured in the dramatic 3-3 draw and 10-9 spot-kick showdown.

Diane Caldwell played the full game and Grace Moloney was held in reserve as Reading lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur; fellow ‘keeper Courtney Brosnan likewise for Everton on Thursday when they beat Leicester City 1-0, with England U23 shot-stopper Emily Ramsey’s WSL debut a successful one. Captain Katie McCabe, who could be facing a positional change for Ireland amidst this deepened injury crisis, was also off over the weekend after Arsenal’s mid-week Champions League exploits.

Pauw will also be sweating on the fitness of Amber Barrett, the striker — though playing right-back for Turbine Potsdam of late — forced off after 22 minutes in Saturday’s Frauen-Bundesliga defeat to her former club Koln.

There were mixed fortunes for two returning players elsewhere on the continent: Kyra Carusa captained HB Hoge to another win to stay top of the league in Denmark, while Niamh Farrelly was involved in another heavy Serie A defeat for Parma.

In Scottish Cup action, Emily Whelan scored for Glasgow City in their 5-0 win over Aberdeen. Eileen Gleeson’s side, for whom Claire Walsh also played, progressed to the quarter-finals, as did Claire O’Riordan‘s Celtic, though Ciara Grant‘s Hearts exited on penalties.

And amongst the colleges’ action Stateside, Heather Payne scored a penalty for Florida State University as they recorded their seventh win in-a-row, Donegal duo Roma McLaughlin and Zoe McGlynn helped Central Connecticut to victory, Rebecca Cooke is in red-hot form for Quinnipiac and Éabha O’Mahony is also impressing for Boston College.

(*McAloon, Ryan Doyle, Whelan, Claire Walsh, McGlynn, Cooke and O’Mahony are not in the current squad, who report into camp tomorrow. There are three WNL players in there also: Keeva Keenan, Áine O’Gorman and Abbie Larkin.)

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