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'I think there was hamstrings left on the pitch, a few stud marks and ball marks on legs'

Drawing with the European Champions in a World Cup qualifier took a huge physical effort from the Republic of Ireland women’s team.

Image: Orange Pictures/Rob Koppers/INPHO

Updated at 7.31

THE REPUBLIC OF Ireland’s incredible draw against European champions the Netherlands in a World Cup qualifier, left its imprint on the players.

The team were under sustained pressure throughout the 90 minutes as the Dutch side relentlessly unleashed attack after attack on Marie Hourihan’s goal.

But a combination of good fortune, the intervention of a goalpost, and some strong defensive play ensured that Ireland would not concede anything during the tie.

There were also calls for a Holland penalty after the ball hit Diane Caldwell’s hand in the 86th minute, but the referee waved play on.

In any case, Colin Bell’s charges held firm throughout the contest and took a precious point from their trip to Nijmegen to keep their dreams of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup alive.

The 0-0 scoreline also means that Ireland’s run of clean sheets remains intact at this stage of the campaign.

It took a colossal effort from Ireland to protect that record, and it left some bruises on the players.

“It was absolutely bodies on the line last night,” Arsenal and Republic of Ireland defender Louise Quinn told The42.

“Everyone left everything on the pitch. I think there was hamstrings left on the pitch, a few stud marks, ball marks on legs, just everything.

“We’re a little bit battered today but I think everyone is feeling good in their heads so that helps.”

Quinn had some club-mates playing for the opposition last night, and despite the ceaseless volume of attacks coming their way, the Wicklow native embraced every challenge that was thrown at them.

Lieke Martens with Louise Quinn Netherlands Lieke Martens taking on Louise Quinn. Source: Orange Pictures/Rob Koppers/INPHO

“Not that I like that exact game, it was quite stressful, but I love defending,” she said.

“I think as a back-line we love to do it. The constant wave (of pressure) kept you focused. In that way, I think everyone was just pumped up for the whole game and switched on, especially that we were defending so well, it gave you the confidence.

“There was a patch in the second half where I think they opened us a little bit but I think we got ourselves back to where we needed to be.

They just weren’t scoring and it kind of felt that they just weren’t going to score. We were doing so well and it would have been really unfortunate if they had got a goal.

“It had to be a quality goal to get through us.”

The penalty incident produced a somewhat fiery incident, with some of the Netherlands’ players converging on Russian referee Anastasia Pustovoitova to protest the decision.

The frustrations were still evident after the full-time whistle, but Quinn believes that Ireland’s defensive performance rattled the hosts throughout.

The frustration got to them. They haven’t lost a game in such a long time. I don’t think they expected us to hold tight and defend so well. I think they thought it could have been more of a straight forward game for them but we really got our tactics right and Colin got that really spot on.

“It obviously would have been good to get more attacking opportunities but (in the) first half I think we did really create some of those chances exactly how we wanted to. I think that first half almost couldn’t have gone more perfect. A couple of clearances off the line but those attacks are going to get through some time.”

The result puts Ireland in second place in Group 3 at the end of 2017 with Holland holding pole position due to a superior goal difference.

Quinn is proud of how her teammates handled this tricky assignment without some of their key players, and says it was one of her most memorable performances in an Irish jersey.

“As I was saying to the girls, you just had the good feeling all week. It was a long 10 days (in camp) and some days were a bit crazier than others and a bit of cabin fever at times but we got each other through it. We just really enjoyed it and were focused on what we had to do.

I was incredibly proud of the crew we had there, with them being so young and wanting to get a result for the girls that couldn’t play. It was fantastic and it felt very good.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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