Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Kyra Carusa was a second-half substitute against Slovakia on Thursday night.
# Opportunity
'Pressure is a privilege' for Ireland's US-born striker and Danish club's captain
The door could be opened for Kyra Carusa against Georgia, with Heather Payne back in the US due to college commitments.

WITH THE HUNT on for a winner down the home straight of the Republic of Ireland’s draw with Slovakia, Vera Pauw turned to US-born striker Kyra Carusa.

The HB Køge captain replaced Lucy Quinn in the 85th minute, and while she looked lively — “Kyra Carusa came on well,” Pauw said afterwards, “she is a goalscorer” — she couldn’t make her impact fully felt as it finished 1-1.

“It’s always exciting to get on the field and make a difference and make a change for your team,” Carusa told the media afterwards.

“In those final 10-plus minutes, we’re pushing forward, we’re looking for any opportunity, we’re getting free kicks, we’re getting corner kicks; it’s almost mentality at that point. It’s just who wants to put the ball in the back of the net, who’s gonna tell the other team that they’re gonna score on them, who’s gonna believe it more than the other?

“I’m excited that I was one of those people who were given the opportunity to be on the field, and really encouraged that out of our team.”

With Heather Payne back in the US for college commitments at Florida State University, there’s a spot going up top against Georgia tomorrow night [KO 7pm, live on RTÉ Two].

That Carusa was thrown into the mix on Thursday night indicates that she’s been impressing Pauw on the training ground, and could be handed her first start and a chance to push on.

“I would hope so,” she said. “Between these international camps, you do everything you can to stay fit, to stay healthy, to give yourself that opportunity to prove yourself at a club setting or in a Champions League setting, that here you can be trusted, and that you are someone who can take on that responsibility for that starting spot.

“So of course, I feel like I’ve done everything in my power to make sure that I can make that happen. I know that we have quite a group of girls here and quite a lot of talent, so I always respect whatever decision she [Pauw] and this coaching staff end up making.

“But again, from my standpoint, I believe that I have done everything I can to make sure I can afford myself an opportunity like that.”

And Carusa backs herself as someone to fit perfectly into Pauw’s plans.

“I would say that I’m definitely a versatile player. I think that, at the end of the day, what I bring to the pitch is something that she is looking for — that Irish aggression and mentality, but also just being able to hold the ball, turn people and make things happen up top that wouldn’t normally happen all the time.

“Just give our frontline a bit of versatility, make a team have to have to be afraid of those runs that Heather [Payne] and Lucy [Quinn] and myself are able to make in the back areas, but also when we’re on the ball. I think I can definitely bring that to the table for our team.”

She’s been doing it for her club, HB Køge, with three league goals to her name in the Danish top-flight so far this season – she hit 18 last time – and plenty of Champions League football under her belt.

Based just outside Copenhagen for the second year running, life in Denmark is going well for Carusa.

“I love it. It is quite the experience so far. We’re a very young team. It’s our debut. And being given the responsibility to captain the team — a young team like that and a very, very good group — it’s a privilege.

“And I continue to remind our team that it is a privilege to be there, to be playing against the best attackers, the best defenders in the world. If anything, it kind of reminds myself to stay disciplined, to learn from every game, but also to continue to challenge these teams and make them have to be class — make them have to prove themselves as the best teams in the world to have to score on us.

“And I think that since our first game, we’ve only grown. We have a game against Hoffenheim when we get back, it’s a home game so I’m excited for that.”

But her full focus is on international duty right now. And likewise, it’s a privilege to wear the green jersey; to be part of this group and this journey as they look to reach a first-ever major tournament.

Qualifying for the Girls In Green through her maternal grandparents — Tony and Beryl Lucey, from Cork and Laois respectively, who emigrated in the 1950s — Carusa’s Fifa clearance came through in Febraury 2020.

With three caps now, the San Diego native smiles: “I always say the pressure is such a privilege. Some people feel like it’s a lot on you when you see Tallaght filled and you have so much to represent, but what an honour. Where else would you rather be, right?

“I feel something special when I’m called in and I’m given the opportunity to come into camp. I’m very, very happy to be here and very, very happy to have that pressure on my shoulders.”

That continues against Georgia tomorrow night, where three points against Group A’s minnows are absolutely necessary to keep the World Cup qualifying dream on track.

Carusa is hoping for another big crowd in Tallaght, with fans “the 12th man on the field,” but more importantly, that her side can get back to winning ways after the disappointing draw with lower-ranked Slovakia. That they can turn things around and get back to the heights they hit in last month’s monumental victory over in Finland, and the narrow home defeat to top seeds Finland.

“It’s a privilege to have back-to-back home games, and to take that momentum from one into the next and keep that crowd with you, and keep that spirit around. It’s special,” she concluded.

“Also being home is everything; not to have to have travel on your legs. It’s a big opportunity for us, I think it’s a really, really good position for us in this next game. We’re very happy about it.

“Definitely going into Tuesday for [the win] and training for that game with that in mind.”


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