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'We really have high hopes that she will be a very good asset to our team' - Irish recall for US-based star

Donegal midfielder Roma McLaughlin is back in the Ireland squad, having enjoyed a rich vein of recent form.

HAVING ENJOYED A stunning season Stateside, Roma McLaughlin has the potential to be “a very good asset to our team,” says Ireland boss Vera Pauw.

roma Roma McLaughlin recently landed another All-American honour. Source: CCSU Soccer.

McLaughlin is one of two Donegal midfielders who earned international recalls as the Ireland squad for an upcoming international friendly double-header away to Iceland was named today.

Having amassed five senior caps to date, 23-year-old McLaughlin joins Shelbourne’s Ciara Grant as they make the cut for the first time since Pauw took charge in September 2019.

McLaughlin was recently named in the Division 1 Women’s Soccer All-America Third Team after a stunning individual season with Central Connecticut State University [CCSU].

It was the second season in-a-row the former Shels star made the All-America Team, constantly hitting new heights Stateside as CCSU retained the NEC Women’s Soccer Championship.

And Pauw insists McLaughlin is there on merit, rightfully earning her international recall despite a lengthy list of players ruled out through injury (Birmingham City’s Ruesha Littlejohn and Wexford Youths teen sensation Ellen Molloy are the midfielders absent).

“Her selection has nothing to do with the injuries,” the Dutchwoman said. “We would have selected her anyway. She has grown over the year.

“I was told that she had some injuries previously but we need to sit down and see how her development went.

She was, of course, in the squad before I came, but if you look at her performance last year to where she is now, you can say that she now is dominant in midfield. She is always pressing forward, which is our style of play, and she never loses the ball. When she has the ball, she wants to get forward and is always the motor in her team.

“Defensively, she can immediately come back. She is a strong battler, she could suit our midfield if she can transfer her form to the higher level.

“We cannot judge from videos. She is playing at a lower level to international but the way she’s doing things and what she shows, we really have high hopes that she will be a very good asset to our team.”

Another player Pauw has shown faith in is Saoirse Noonan, one of the eight Women’s National League [WNL] players in the 23-strong squad.

saoirse-noonan-with-aoife-brophy Noonan on the ball for Shelbourne recently. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Having recently made the switch from Cork City to Shelbourne and stepping away from the Rebels ladies football set-up to concentrate on soccer, Noonan sees her recent club form rewarded with a call-up.

The 21-year-old had previously been named in provisional selections under Pauw, but will be part of her full set-up for the first time.

“Saoirse is a player that you probably need to see at the highest level under the highest pressure. She’s made the step to Shelbourne, she’s doing really well there and we have included her to see how she transfers that to the highest level.

We need to see where she gets but she deserves the chance to grow under the pressure that the players in the Ireland squad can give her, and then we’ll see how far we go.”

After back-to-back friendly defeats to higher-ranked Denmark and Belgium, the Girls In Green now face more big tests against Iceland in Reykjavik, facing their hosts on Friday, 11 June, and Tuesday, 15 June [both games live on RTÉ Player].

The two games – which will be live on the RTÉ Player – come as Pauw’s third and fourth friendly matches in charge, as preparations for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup qualifiers ramp up ahead of September’s kick-off.

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Ireland are in Group A for that, and will play Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Georgia as they look to reach a first-ever major tournament, which will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Pauw’s side are currently ranked 34th in the world, and 17th-placed Iceland come as another welcome challenge on this upward trajectory.

“We did that deliberately,” she said. “You could say that we need to score now, we need to win and have the feeling of the win. That’s true, but Fifa have taken away three international slots which means six games per year (gone).

“It means you only have the opportunity to play either lower-ranked teams or a team that is really preparing us for games against Sweden and Finland.

We’ve chosen that because my experience is if you can grow fast – and you can only grow fast against higher opposition with a lot of pressure – then the games against the not-so-good teams go better.

“There’s more pressure, more pace in the game, and it goes forward, so we’re very happy with this double-header.”

“We expect a game with a lot of forward pressure,” Pauw added, taking a closer look at what Iceland will bring, “big, strong players who are very direct. From their build-up, they go immediately towards the goal.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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