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'It was up to me to show them what I can do' - Ireland star marks long-awaited return with POTM award

Glasgow-born Ruesha Littlejohn sparkled in last night’s Euro 2021 qualifier win.

Ruesha Littlejohn during last night's game.
Ruesha Littlejohn during last night's game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AFTER A LENGTHY absence, Ruesha Littlejohn marked her return to the Ireland squad with a superb Player-of-the-Match performance against Greece in last night’s crucial Euro 2021 qualifying win.

Glasgow-born Littlejohn was catapulted into the starting XI having not been involved in the set-up since 2018, and made her 55th appearance in the green jersey at Tallaght Stadium. 

This one was perhaps one of the most memorable ones for the 29-year-old, who recently signed for Women’s Super League [WSL] side West Ham.

“It was nice to come back in,” Littlejohn smiled afterwards. “I’m thankful to Vera [Pauw] and Eileen [Gleeson] for opening up the door and letting me back in.

It was up to me to show them what I can do, so hopefully I’ve done that and I can keep fighting for a place in the squad now. 

“Absolutely,” she added when asked if her recent move to the Hammers helped. “I mean I’m playing with players that I’m having to get up to their level and compete against. It’s great for me, it’s raised my game so it’s good to be full-time training.”

The former Arsenal, Celtic and Liverpool attacker signed for the Hammers in January after a successful trial period. She had been a free agent since departing Championship outfit London Bees at the end of last season, and is now eager to make the most of her chance at West Ham, where she has signed on until the end of this season. 

There, she plays alongside fellow Ireland duo Leanne Kiernan — who missed last night’s Greek tie through injury — and Courtney Brosnan.

Littlejohn — who represented Scotland at underage level before declaring for Ireland in 2012 — has been impressive for the London side, and carried that form through to last night. She was brilliant throughout the clash that was ultimately decided by Diane Caldwell’s goal on the stroke of half time. 

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ruesha

That said, she did miss a few goal chances — one of those a golden one to make it 2-0 in the second half. Ireland dominated but were frustrated by Greece, and Littlejohn conceded that there was some concern that they would bite back late on like they had in Athens.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “We knew before the game that it could go like that so we worked on that.

Look, it was a nervy ending but we’ve done enough, we’ve seen the game out and we showed a bit of maturity to get over the line.

“I think if we look at the positives from it, we’ve learned from the away game and we’ve seen the game out so that’s something for us to build on. Obviously Vera and Eileen are quite new in so it’s going to take a bit of time to work on what we’ve got to work on, but I believe we’ll get there.”

Unbeaten Ireland’s focus now switches to the away clash against Montenegro on Wednesday, after they opened their campaign against the Group I minnows with a 2-0 win. 

With the Girls In Green tightening their grip on the all-important second-place, it’s another crucial game which requires three points as the bid to reach a first-ever major tournament roars on.

“It’s a big game for us,” Littlejohn nodded. “We’ll recover after tonight, we’ll regroup and get the travel in, out the road and focus on the task in hand.

“They’re going to be tough, tough team on their home patch, but I believe we can get something out of the game so we’ll focus on that.”

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Emma Duffy

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