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'Imagine sending a message across Europe that we've beaten the reigning champions'

Ireland’s young guns can qualify for the Women’s U19 European Championships this evening – but a tough test awaits.

Brighton youngster Megan Mackey (10) captains Dave Connell's side.
Brighton youngster Megan Mackey (10) captains Dave Connell's side.

TODAY IS THE day.

Make or break, do or die, all or nothing. All the clichés in the world apply but when all is said and done, hopefully, Dave Connell’s Ireland U19 side will have sealed their place at this summer’s European Championships.

With serious momentum behind them after back-to-back 4-0 Elite Round wins over Hungary and Serbia, it all comes down to this, the final hurdle.

But an extremely difficult one it is as reigning champions and hosts Spain stand in the way of these rising stars achieving their dream.

“When the draw came out, nobody gave us a chance of beating them,” captain Megan Mackey, who plays her club football with Brighton, said ahead of this evening’s all-important kick-off in Santiago de Compostela (KO 5.30pm Irish time).

“They’re the European champions. We all want to prove them wrong, stand up and be counted.

“Imagine sending a message across Europe that we’ve beaten the reigning champions. That would be something.”

Mackey, more than anyone, knows that victory is needed. But a draw could potentially be enough to earn the Girls in Green qualification for the finals in Scotland this July. 

While three wins from three last year saw the side coast into the Elite Round, the dream is more alive than ever and the former Chelsea starlet — who hit a sublime strike in their last outing — is keen to carry that stunning form through later today.

“It’s brilliant playing with the girls and playing well,” she smiled. “We scored eight goals in the past two games so we’re playing well. It was nice to get a goal against Serbia, but it’s great to see the team playing well.

“Captaining your country in an amazing thing. It’s nice that Dave trusts me and has given me these responsibilities. We have captains all over the pitch though.”

The skipper herself is eligible to play with the U19s again next season, but realises how big an opportunity this is — and just how big of a deal qualification would be.

“We want to go to the end of July. Some of these girls wont get this opportunity again next year. We have a great bond and work for each other. Hopefully the results come.”

Ireland will hope to follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts qualified for their U19 European Championships in Armenia last month.

An U19 double appearance at the Euros this summer would be nice, that’s for sure.

Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 19 squad

Goalkeepers: Erica Turner (DLR Waves), Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne)
Defenders: Sadhbh Doyle (Galway WFC), Roisin McGovern (DLR Waves), Rachel Baynes (Galway WFC), Aoife Slattery (Wexford Youths), Leah Brady (Galway WFC), Katie Burdis (DLR Waves)
Midfielders: Lucia Lobato (Galway WFC), Megan Mackey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Chloe Singleton (Galway WFC), Tiegan Ruddy (CCSU), Sinead Donavan (Galway WFC)
Forwards: Alannah McEvoy (Shelbourne), Carla McManus (Kilkenny United), Kelly Brady (World Class), Heather Payne (Bristol City), Niamh Reynolds (Reading) Michelle O’Driscoll (Daytona State University), Keelin McEntee (DLR Waves)

- Quotes from the FAI

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Emma Duffy

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