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'It's terribly unfortunate for the girls but it's an opportunity for others to step up'

Louise Quinn on Ireland’s defensive crisis, Sweden’s biggest strength, and how securing a result in Gothenburg is ‘really, really possible’.

Savannah McCarthy (2) has suffered an unfortunate injury blow.
Savannah McCarthy (2) has suffered an unfortunate injury blow.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Updated Apr 11th 2022, 12:55 PM

A DEFENSIVE CRISIS, of sorts, is never ideal.

Especially not while gearing up to play the second-ranked team in the world.

That’s exactly what the Republic of Ireland are dealing with as they prepare to face Sweden in tomorrow night’s massive World Cup qualifier in Gothenburg [KO 5.30pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2 and RTÉ Player worldwide].

There’s an important void in defence to be filled; Savannah McCarthy having been favoured on the left of the back three through the campaign thus far, but a recent ACL injury unfortunately stunts her impressive progress.

Diane Caldwell would usually be considered the most obvious alternative option to the Galway defender, but the Manchester United player has been hit with a thigh setback of her own.

Injury-plagued Liverpool star Megan Campbell was forced out of the squad this week, compounding matters with Niamh Farrelly (ankle) of Glasgow City also absent.

It’s an unfortunate situation, but that’s football, Louise Quinn says.

It’s an opportunity for others to put their hands up for selection, with Glasgow’s Claire Walsh and Germany-based Claire O’Riordan two options for cover should Pauw stick with her tried-and-trusted formation.

“For me personally, you just want them to be alright,” Quinn, an established figure in the back three, begins. “Sav has been doing absolutely brilliant, I’ve been able to play alongside I know for lots of games and just [see] how she’s grown as a player.

“We’re a very tight-knit group and just want to make sure that she’s alright and gets the right treatment. She will be able to come back from it. There’s so much time for her to get back, and get back onto the international bandwagon again. We just hope she recovers well, but I think she is that kind of person that’s just gonna take it on. She’s well able to face a bit of challenges and diversity, that’s the personality she is. We’re definitely gonna make sure and look out for her.

“And obviously then with Di, it’s tough timing with what she has, but again, she’s the ultimate professional. She’ll be back in no time. The Pinatar Cup, that was about the rotation — people got plenty of game time to know that everyone has a role and a purpose in the squad, and these are the moments now.

“It is something that the girls — and Claire Walsh has to pounce on. It’s a massive opportunity for her. I’ve known her since we’ve been young and this is a moment she’s gonna relish, and she’s so capable of it. We’ll just have to see. She’s one example, Claire O’Riordan is back as well. This is what they’ve been prepping for, to be pulling on the green jersey. It’s terribly unfortunate for the girls but it’s an opportunity then for others to step up to the plate.”

republic-of-ireland-v-sweden-fifa-womens-world-cup-2023-uefa-qualifier-group-a-tallaght-stadium Sweden celebrate their goal in October as McCarthy watches on. Source: PA

Red-hot Sweden, Group A’s runaway leaders, have all but booked their ticket to Australia and New Zealand 2023, with a point at Gamla Ullevi tomorrow night sealing automatic qualification.

Anything but a defeat would effectively be a bonus for Ireland, as they sit second and in a favourable position as their bid to reach a first-ever major tournament hits new heights.

“I’d take a draw, yeah,” Birmingham City captain Quinn smiles. “Any amount of points.

“You want to go looking for the three. Can it be realistic that we could get a point? I do think that, but we’re gonna have to take a lot of pressure. A lot of defending, let them have the ball and work our way around that. They are top of the table, more than likely going to get the automatic qualification unless something drastic happens. Any points, I’ll gladly take them.”

It wasn’t to be in their previous meeting at Tallaght Stadium; an unfortunate Quinn own goal ultimately the difference as the Swedes took the maximum points.

They’ve done so in every game  since, scoring 26 goals and conceding just one as they hold a 100% record.

“As disappointing as it was we were still very happy with how it went, to be able to compete against the silver medallists in the Olympics, we did take massive pride in that,” Quinn, who previously played her club football in Sweden with Eskilstuna United, reflects.

“It was unfortunate with the goal but it was just one of those. It’s football. That was the way it went. We didn’t drop the heads. We actually had a reaction to get ourselves back in the game and go again.

“Towards the end of the game they were switching around tactics to try stop us from scoring. They could see we were still posing a threat to them, and that’s a compliment to what we are about.”

It’s a sure sign of how this team has evolved; no longer resorting to damage limitation and parking the bus. That’s down to everyone having confidence in one another, and being “far more clinical than we’ve ever been,” Quinn explains.

While Ireland have prided themselves on their defensive game through the years, vast improvements have been made on the transition to attack with a big challenge ahead for the creative outlets around the middle as they look to relieve pressure.

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Sweden are goal-hungry, as best seen in their 15-0 win over Georgia last week, so a sea of blue and yellow will keep Quinn and Co. on their toes.

“Their biggest strength? They take anything you give them,” she nods. “If you leave them a little bit of space in behind, they’ll take that. If you close them down quickly, they’ll try pop around, they’ll get in between the gaps and the lines, they’ll go direct, if they need to go direct.

louise-quinn Quinn was speaking at a Republic of Ireland WNT Media Event last week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“They don’t have a set way of playing, I suppose that’s almost their strength, because once you try stop what you think is their strength, they’ll do something a little bit different. And it’s a huge credit to them, and the players that they have.

“But then also sometimes they’re a bit too structured at times, and that’s obviously where you can try break them down and try stop them. They’ll be pushing players forward to finish the game early, get their goals against us, but then that just leaves us space. There’s weaknesses in every team and every formation. We will be working extremely hard to make sure that we spot them.”

The Girls In Green have referenced several results of their own — exhibit A the 0-0 2019 World Cup qualifying draw with Netherlands in Nijmegen — and the others’ — the U21s’ recent 2-0 win in Sweden, another example — through the build-up.

“The Australia game as well,” Quinn adds, looking to September’s 3-2 friendly victory over the world-class Matildas. “That’s one of those perfect moments where we were just so clinical with what we were given on set pieces, on transitions and stuff like that. Again, on the day, it can all happen.

“We’re going to take positives even from the first Sweden game as well. They’re probably in a bit of a different place themselves. But we’ve grown and adapted to games and faced different challenges.

“Some of the Blues girls were [referencing] the 2-0 win over Arsenal and stuff like that. It just shows if you know your role on the day, if you execute it really well, if you work extremely hard and take your chances early on, it’s so possible.

“Really, really possible.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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