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Ireland's long-throw specialist Campbell 'buzzing to be back' in green after injury hell

The Manchester City star shone on the big stage last night.

LAST NIGHT WAS one of the good ones.

megan-campbell-celebrates-after-the-game-with-young-fans Megan Campbell with fans after last night's 3-2 win. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

After all the gut-wrenching lows, the nightmare run of injuries and the rotten individual luck, Megan Campbell showed just how important she is to this Ireland team as Vera Pauw opened her reign with a huge 3-2 Euro 2021 qualifier win over Ukraine. 

Back in the green jersey after battling back from the brink once again, the Manchester City star was incredible throughout. Renowned for her remarkable long throw-ins, they were hugely effective as the Girls In Green edged past Group I’s second seeds in front of a record crowd at Tallaght Stadium.

Drogheda native Campbell missed Ireland’s campaign-opening win over Montenegro, so her sheer presence alone last night was a huge boost. She had made cameos earlier this year in international friendlies, but last night felt like a proper return on home soil as she was back to her brilliant best.

“It was my first 90 minutes with Ireland in I don’t know how long,” she told The42 afterwards, beaming from ear to ear, “and in Tallaght as well.

I’m just buzzing to be back. My family and all were there. Yeah, just nice to be back in with the girls.

Her most recent serious injury lay-off was a 16-month ACL nightmare. The 26-year-old suffered setback after setback following on from initial damage in October 2017, while she suffered a hammer blow of an ankle injury in 2016.

A long, hard road which is well documented, but she’s back now. As is last night’s star of the show, Rianna Jarrett. It was a dream night for the Wexford Youths striker, who scored her first international goal after similar horrific injury woes to Campbell. 

Jarrett has suffered three ACL injuries in the past few years. She could have easily threw in the towel — as could Campbell, who admitted that at times she thought, ‘Maybe football isn’t for me and maybe I should just stop.’

 But no, they persisted. And the latter was full of praise for her team-mate afterwards.

“I don’t think I’ve seen her play as well as she has tonight, ever,” Campbell smiled. “She’s looked after herself in the summer, she’s worked her butt off to come back in the best shape she could possibly after so many injuries.

rianna-jarrett-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-second-goal-with-megan-campbell Celebrating the goal with Jarrett. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“With the mentality that she has, I had no doubt that she would be able to come back and perform at the level she did. Thankfully Vera’s given her the opportunity tonight and she’s taken it with both hands.

We’re buzzing that she was able to get a goal, and the assists were brilliant as well. We’re just buzzing, yeah.

Ultimately, last night was all about the team. Win together, lose together. This team has been through so much, and that told as they showed brilliant character to battle to a 3-2 win. 

Captain Katie McCabe and Jarrett handed Ireland a dream 2-0 lead, but Ukraine had drawn level by half time after goal-keeping and defensive errors. Ultimately it was an own goal that sealed the hosts’ win, but that didn’t matter as they sealed an important three points and made it two wins from two in their bid to reach a first-ever major tournament.

Job done in game two? How important was it to get the result?

“Yeah, definitely,” the defender laughs. “Brilliant. It was obviously very important especially with new staff coming in, Vera taking charge and stuff.

It was obviously a tough week with loads of new faces — loads of new old faces — but a great challenge for us, and we’re delighted to come away with three points against the second seeds in the group.

“They started with a 5-4-1 [formation] and we were quite shocked at that,” she added. “We thought they would come out a bit more attacking but obviously they seen that we were a threat, and we were obviously happy with that.

“We took advantage of it and had a great counter-attacking goal, which I don’t think we’ve seen ever with our team. It was class to see the football that we tried to play and we will continue to do so in the campaign.

“Their goals came from our mistakes, we all put our hands up and agree that that happened. We showed the mentality to come out in the second half, stride it out, get the third goal and be able to hold them off.

megan-campbell-celebrates-after-the-game Celebrating after the game. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I think if we look back to maybe a few campaigns previous, maybe in the last 10 minutes we would have either drawn that game or thrown it away.”

And she also gives a nod to the support from the 5,328 fans present for that. They drove the side on through the difficult periods, and each and every one of the players and coaching team are grateful for that.

“Unbelievable,” Campbell concluded, almost lost for words when the record crowd is put to her.

Obviously thank you so much to everyone who came out and supported us. I hope ye continue to do so. The crowd did drive us on, you could hear ‘Olé olé olé’ at the end of game and it got us over the line. It definitely did.

“We’re just delighted with the support and hopefully it will continue to grow. That’s on us as players as well, if we keep performing and keep getting results then the crowds will keep coming back. Overall, very happy.”

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Emma Duffy

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