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Dublin: 3°C Saturday 17 April 2021

Ireland welcome return of 'unbelievable' throw-in specialist ahead of Long shot against Germany

Manchester City star Megan Campbell has endured a torrid time with injury, but could make her international comeback next week.

Megan Campbell with fans after the Ukraine game last year.
Megan Campbell with fans after the Ukraine game last year.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THE LONG-AWAITED RETURN of Manchester City defender Megan Campbell to the Ireland set-up has come as a timely boost ahead of their biggest challenge yet.

That’s according to captain Katie McCabe and striker Amber Barrett, as they prepare to face all-conquering Germany next week with their Euro 2022 qualification hopes hanging by a thread.

Vera Pauw’s side welcome Group I winners Germany to Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday, with a win the order to reach the play-offs. While a monumental upset will be needed against the Germans, who are the world’s second-ranked nation and boast a 100% record in this campaign, scoring 37 goals and conceding zero, there’s plenty of belief in the set-up.

An unlikely Ukrainian slip-up against group minnows Montenegro would also see their dream of reaching a first-ever major tournament sparked back to life. But an Irish win seems the most possible route.

The return of long-term absentee Campbell is certainly a boost, the Drogheda native back on international duty, having last represented her country in the 3-2 win over Ukraine 13 months ago.

Campbell’s long-term injury struggles have been well documented at this stage — the latest one a foot injury after a frustrating few years. “On the day of the surgery, my surgeon said, ‘You may never play professional football again,’” as she told The42 of her latest woe this summer.

But the 27-year-old has defied the odds, having been named in matchday squads at City once again before her welcome inclusion with the Girls In Green.

And McCabe hopes she will play a part next Tuesday.

“Having Megan back is fantastic for us,” she said. “What she can do on the pitch is unbelievable, and her presence off the pitch as well. She’s so important to the team.

“It’s been a whole year since the last Ukraine game. That game in itself showed how important she was. Her throw-in alone is unbelievable, that’s a weapon in itself. For us, we’re just delighted to have her back in.

“Obviously she’s had a few injury issues over the course of the years. Obviously the physio team and staff will be making sure to get her 100% right. Whether she can start or not, I’m not too sure but hopefully she can get some minutes.”

Donegal ace Barrett, who’s playing her football in Germany with FC Koln at present, was of the same opinion.

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“Megan’s probably one of the most unfortunate players that we’ve ever had with injury,” she noted. “She’s spent a lot of time on the sidelines getting herself back, but the fact that she’s here at all playing is a testament to the amount of work and dedication she puts in.

“Of course the throw-in is probably her best asset, but she’s a very, very good footballer as well. We need our best players playing on Tuesday night. Having the throw-in, we could win the ball back in our own half and suddenly then we have a ball that goes up the field, I think we’re going to have to take that as well.

“But it is great to have Megan back.”

shane-long-celebrates-scoring-their-first-goal Shane Long wheels away after scoring that magical goal. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A few weeks back, Pauw shared her hopes that Shane Long’s goal-scoring heroics of 2015 could possibly inspire Ireland to salvage their qualification bid.

The Dutch boss spoke about sending the now-famous late winner from the Aviva Stadium in October 2015 to the players a few weeks back — and it’s something Barrett takes inspiration from. 

“Everybody is very aware that we are going to need something very special on Tuesday night,” she said.

“Seeing the clip of Shane Long that was sent into the group, it just resonates a lot with you, because it is going to take something like that, something really, really special.

“Unfortunately for us we are not going to have 50,000 in the stadium cheering us on, but it certainly is going to be one of those games where anything could happen.

“As long as we stay in the game, I think the chance of us getting something will obviously increase. Things aren’t just handed to you on a plate in football, so we will definitely have to earn it on Tuesday night.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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