Denise O'Sullivan takes a walk near the team hotel in Brisbane. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
High hopes

Step by step as Ireland remain hopeful for 'extremely fit' Denise O'Sullivan

Vera Pauw ‘just focusing on Australia’ in wake of abandoned Colombia game.

DENISE O’SULLIVAN HAS returned to light training as her race for full fitness for the World Cup intensifies.

The Ireland star was hospitalised with a shin injury after Friday night’s abandoned warm-up game against Colombia at Meakin Park.

Vera Pauw’s side resumed full training at their Brisbane base this evening, with all eyes on midfield maestro O’Sullivan ahead of Thursday’s opening showdown against Australia in Sydney.

The boot O’Sullivan has worn in recent days has been removed and she is walking freely. Her stability will be tested at training and if the outcome is positive, it’s onto running. An FAI update is expected after training.

denise-osullivan O'Sullivan at training this evening. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

While Pauw and her staff are uncertain whether Thursday may come too soon, the Ireland manager remains hopeful — with news from the medical team and player positive.

“There is really good hopes and Denise herself says there is really good hopes,” Pauw told the Irish media this morning.

“It is going according to what we hoped would happen, so the hope is the same [as Saturday's update].

“Step by step in this case. Denise is fit, she is extremely fit, that helps. From there, we will see, but it is about what she can handle. Then we build up to the match.”

Pauw, meanwhile, said she was aware that footage of the tackle on O’Sullivan that has emerged in Colombian media.

Asked whether it’s frustrating that the rest of the world hasn’t seen the remainder of the behind-closed-doors game abandoned after “over physical” Colombian play, just this clip, she responded:

“Well, if it was very frustrating, we would have come out with it. We know that it was the total atmosphere and this was not the only incident. That is what we know.

“And the tackle is over the ball and on the ankle, the ball was away and it was on the ankle. And not even a hand lower, she would have been out of the World Cup, for sure. And it was deliberate.”

She has not seen the backlash on social media. “To be honest, at this moment, it does not bother me because I have switched off my social media and haven’t looked. For obvious reasons. I need to be here for the team.

“I will leave that to other people because I am just focusing on Australia.”

vera-pauw Pauw meeting Irish fans in Brisbane last week. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Australian defensive duo Clare Hunt and Alanna Kennedy spoke briefly about Ireland at Matildas training nearby in Brisbane.

“In terms of what happened the other night, that impacts the Irish team but doesn’t necessarily impact our preparation,” Western Sydney Wanderers star Hunt said.

“It’s terrible a game has to be abandoned for that reason. Ireland have always had physicality, they always will and we are preparing in the same way. We know it’s their strength and we’re working to nullify that any way we can. We are a physical and transitional team also and it will be a good battle.”

“I can vouch for the fact that Ireland have world-class players in the likes of Denise O’Sullivan and Katie McCabe,” she added.

“We recognise their strengths in terms of their defensive block and we’ve also found ways we can obviously capitalise on their weaknesses. What we are focusing on is our squad now and our capacity against Ireland’s current squad so the result in 2021 [3-2 defeat] is not something that we’re focused on.”

On O’Sullivan, Manchester City star Kennedy added: “Firstly, I hope she’s okay, because you don’t want to see any players injured at the moment, especially right before the start of the World Cup. Obviously she is a big player for them.

“But whether she plays or whether someone else replaces her, it doesn’t change anything for us and our game plan will stay the same. Our focus is on ourselves.”

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