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Dublin: 0°C Saturday 23 January 2021

'We know we’ll have to pull off something spectacular' - Ireland's Celtic star back fit and firing for Germany

Still haunted by Kiev, the Girls In Green must ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at their final Euro 2022 qualifier next week, says Keeva Keenan.

Ireland defender Keeva Keenan.
Ireland defender Keeva Keenan.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

WHILE KEEVA KEENAN watched Ireland’s Euro 2022 dream ship a major blow in Kiev from the bench, the Celtic star is hoping her side can pull off a miracle next week.

Vera Pauw’s side welcome all-conquering Germany to Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday, 1 December, with their qualification hopes hanging by a thread.

They’re slim, and Keenan is realistic, like everyone else involved, but they’ll certainly throw everything they have at the world’s second-ranked nation, who boast a 100% record in this campaign, scoring 37 goals and conceding zero.

A win would see the dream of reaching a first-ever major tournament sparked back to life through the playoff route, as would an unlikely Ukrainian slip-up against group minnows Montenegro.

“We’ve nothing to lose at his stage,” Keenan told reporters today. “We need the win, we need the result, so it will be probably be throwing the kitchen sink at it and seeing what we get from it.

“We have to be realistic as well. Germany are one of the best teams in the world, so we know we’ll have to pull off something spectacular next Tuesday to try and qualify. We know how tough that will be, we could have made it a lot easier for ourselves if we beat Ukraine that night, that’s why it felt like it was game over for us.”

The performance of their lives is certainly needed, as the Girls In Green look to banish the demons of last months agonising 1-0 defeat, where a win would have sealed a playoff spot, at least.

“It’s obviously always tougher watching on because there is not much you can do,” the Ballymun native recalls.

“If you’re on the park, you can influence the game in some way, shape or form. When you’re sitting watching, you have to keep the girls going and motivate them.

I think it will be something that haunts us for quite a while now. Obviously it was a big opportunity for us to go and qualify so I think it will be a tough one for us to try and get over now.”

There’s no magic way to get over it, the squad just needs to come together and soldier on. Having gathered in camp, they’ll get the heads down, work hard, and control the controllables. They’ll review what’s happened so far, and move on.

“We’ll take all that into consideration and see what we can do better in the Germany game at home, keep our feet on the ground and not get overwhelmed by what could potentially happen,” Keenan, who’s back fully fit and firing, adds.

The 23-year-old defender is hoping to “show Vera what I have in the tank,” as she puts her hand up for a starting berth, an injury picked up at the tail end of the 2019 season having put the brakes on her blossoming career.

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vera-pauw-dejected Dejection after the defeat against Ukraine. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

Keenan has been at Celtic since 2018, winning Player of the Year in her first season at the club. As a big Hoops supporter, it’s been a dream — boosted by signing her first-ever professional contract late last year as the outfit went full-time.

But injury hampered her progress for club and country, having been included in Pauw’s plans after a snub under Colin Bell.

“I spent quite a while out, with lockdown that didn’t help with recovery and stuff, that got delayed. It was really hard to get your form back, get your match fitness, it’s been a big struggle.

“But Vera kept me in camp and that was a big confidence boost more than anything else that I was still in and about the squad. Now I’m back playing with Celtic and stuff too. I eventually got there.

It wasn’t easy but it’s now trying to keep that run of form for the last campaign game and the end of the season with Celtic.”

Where she’s content to play her football, having rubbed shoulders with Damien Duff last year, with Celtic and Old Firm rivals Rangers among the women’s teams to go pro in Scotland.

“For a few years, it would have been Glasgow City just running away with it, they won it 13 years in-a-row, they’re the team to beat, but there are a few teams, like us and Rangers, gone pro,” Keenan, who played with City for some time, concludes.

“It’s competitive, there is no really big results in the league. It’s all kind of close and it’s looking like there might be a different winner at the end of the season, maybe change it up a little bit.”

Pauw is expected to finalise her squad later this evening, with Covid somewhat disrupting preparations.

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Emma Duffy

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