'We don't see any reason why we can't qualify. We hope that the time is now'

Karen Duggan and the Ireland WNT are focused as their quest to reach a first major tournament continues.

'There's a long way to go but the results we've had have bred some confidence into us.'
'There's a long way to go but the results we've had have bred some confidence into us.'
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

IT SEEMS LIKE the squad is fairly confident going into these two games?

“I’d say we’re more focused than confident,” Ireland midfielder Karen Duggan assures The42, her feet firmly on the ground as she speaks of their upcoming 2019 World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia and The Netherlands respectively in Tallaght.

“It really is about getting maximum points and getting off to a good start from our home campaign side. We really are looking forward to the game. It’s a new year, it’s been a while since we’ve played a competitive match.

“Everyone’s just buzzing to get out there and put on that green jersey again.”

Colin Bell’s side are unbeaten after three away games in Group 3, beating both Northern Ireland and Slovakia before returning home from Holland with a precious point.

They’ve made no secret of the fact that they’re focusing solely on Friday night’s clash with Slovakia first (KO 5pm, live on eir sport), before letting their attention switch to the visit of the European champions to the Emerald Isle.

“We came into camp and the first thing we said was that we’re focusing on Friday. It’s a huge match for us. First game at home first of all, and one that we’ll be looking to grab those three points from.

“We had a good away performance but we know that there’s aspects that we can improve on. We know that Slovakia will have improved, they have a new coach and we need to be prepared to expect the unexpected against them because of that.

Karen Duggan Duggan was named Senior Women's International Player of the Year in March 2017. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We’re working hard in training with a view of getting out on that pitch on Friday and hopefully doing the business out there.”

That said, they won’t in any way look past the Dutch on Tuesday: “I mean they’re European champions for a reason.

“We saw glimpses of their quality in the match, obviously they dominated possession and we had some good luck with them hitting the post, but we set out our stall and we got a brilliant result out there.

“There’s no reason why we can’t do that again but we obviously have to show them the respect that they deserve given the quality that they do have in their side.”

Duggan, a Kilkenny native who has represented her county in camogie before, plies her trade with Peamount United in the Women’s National League (WNL) along with the returning Aine O’Gorman, Amber Barrett and Claire Walsh.

Many others play their club football in the same amateur league, while the likes of Katie McCabe and Louise Quinn play professionally at Arsenal. With all of these various leagues running at different times, Duggan is delighted that she’s coming into these clashes with minutes under her belt — the WNL kicked off last month.

There was a buzz coming into camp, each and every player fresh and in football.

“Exactly, we’re a few games in now and everyone’s match-fit and really, really focused,” she continues.

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Denise O'Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Karren Duggan and Leanne Kiernan Denise O'Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Karen Duggan and Leanne Kiernan. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“People are at different stages of their season but everyone’s in-season, I think, for the first time in this campaign. You can see it in training, there’s a real sharpness and hopefully we’ll bring that into the matches with us.”

With tomorrow and Tuesday’s qualifiers coming as a crucial phase in 2019 qualification World Cup qualification, Ireland are staring down the barrel at history.

The quest to qualify for a first-ever major tournament continues. It’s still a big ask with a long way to go, and players and management alike are aware of that, but can’t help letting their minds wander from time to time.

It is the dream, but there’s that word focus again to round things off.

“It’s always been our focus from the start to qualify for this tournament,” Duggan concludes.

“Obviously we were drawn in a really difficult group and there’s a long way to go but the results we’ve had have bred some confidence into us. We don’t see any reason why we can’t qualify for this tournament now.

“There’s a great squad of girls there who are constantly improving and we hope that the time is now for us to qualify for that tournament.”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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