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Dublin: 12°C Thursday 13 May 2021

World Cup qualification the goal as Ireland's Liverpool star 'still not over' Euros shortcoming

‘It was a bit sickening to be honest, still a really hard pill to swallow,’ says Niamh Fahey.

Niamh Fahey on the ball against Denmark.
Niamh Fahey on the ball against Denmark.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IT’S THE BEGINNING of the next chapter, but the utter heartbreak and disappointment of the last is never too far away.

Ireland defender Niamh Fahey is just off the pitch after a positive international friendly run-out against one of Europe’s best teams, Denmark, and is pleased with her side’s effort in the 1-0 defeat at Tallaght Stadium.

The post-match media interviews are all upbeat, the Liverpool captain dissecting the match, looking to the future and the upcoming 2023 World Cup campaign — until she’s reminded of the last.

And how agonisingly close they came, a 1-0 defeat to Ukraine ultimately the hammer blow which dashed all dreams of qualifying for a first-ever major tournament in next summer’s European Championships.

Does it sill hurt, she’s asked.

“Yeah, I’m probably still not over it.”

No two ways about it.

“For that whole campaign to come up short at the end was really tough. It was a bit sickening to be honest, still a really hard pill to swallow.”

It’s likely all the more sicking given the week that’s in it, with the playoffs taking place and Northern Ireland currently leading Ukraine 2-1 after yesterday’s first-leg win. Fahey’s Reds clubmate, Rachel Furness, was one of the North’s goal-scoring heroes, and she was on the skipper’s mind ahead of it.

“I hope they can do the job that we couldn’t and get to the finals. It would be great for them.”

For the Republic, it’s on to the next job.

The next chapter opened with Pauw’s first friendly fixture in charge, an occassion on which the Girls In Green really put it up to the Euro 2017 runners-up and serious contenders for the next edition.

“A good run out against tough opposition,” was Galway stalwart Fahey’s immediate summation. “It was a good test for us again, and I think we can be proud of the performance we put in. I think it was good, all positive. 

“In the second half, we got in their faces a lot more and probably showed a little more tenacity with our pressing. I think we did really well in the second half. Obviously Katie [McCabe] had a great strike that just came off the bar. I just think it was a really good performance, we limited their chances, they’re a top quality side.

“There’s lots of world-class players there. It was a tough game so a good 90 minutes.”

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diane-caldwell-and-niamh-fahey-dejected-after-the-game Dejected with Diane Caldwell and Rianna Jarrett afterwards. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It hammered home the upward trajectory this team is on, learning bit by bit to mix it with the best teams in the world. Just like their positive second-half performance against Germany last time out, Ireland can certainly build on this.

Mistakes — like how they were cut open in defence early on to concede a ninth-minute goal — can be learned from, and taking chances can be worked on en route to a more complete performance.

“We’re building all the time, trying to control the games more, with more possession, less turnover and tring and build that part of our game, which has been lacking in the past,” Fahey agrees.

“It’s all working towards trying to qualify. It was another step along the road to hopefully qualification, in terms of building and controlling games more. We’re disappointed to lose but realistically it was a good performance, especially the second half. We can build on that.”

And no better place to pick up than in Belgium tomorrow [KO 6.30pm, RTÉ Player], with another friendly test against higher-ranked opposition. The Belgians are 17th in the world rankings, three spots below the Danes, who Pauw argues should be higher. Ireland are 31st.

“They’re a really good side and will be something similar but it’s good for us,” Fahey concludes of their next opponents. “We need to try up our game all the time, playing the top opposition. It is going to be difficult to qualify for the World Cup, but that will help.

“They’re two good friendlies and we’re expecting just as tough of a test when we go away there as well.”

About the author:

Emma Duffy

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