Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO Grace Moloney (file pic).
# Rise
'If you compare her performance against Germany with a few months earlier, it's incomparable'
Vera Pauw has been impressed by Grace Moloney’s improvement in recent months.

IRELAND BOSS Vera Pauw singled out Grace Moloney for praise, after it was confirmed that the manager had signed a new contract on Monday.

Goalkeeper has been a problematic position for the Irish team, with three different players used there during the last qualifying campaign.

However, Moloney appears to have secured the number one jersey for now, having impressed during her first competitive start and third cap in the final qualifier against Germany.

The 27-year-old Slough native, who qualifies to represent Ireland through her grandparents, has also impressed at club level of late, and recently signed a two-year contract extension with Reading.

“We have been working on getting more consistency in the goalkeeping performance,” said Pauw.

“That is why it’s so important to have [the goalkeeping coach] Jan Willem van Ede onboard. Because he’s so experienced with the needs at international level — he’s been at Olympic Games, World Cups, European Cups, with boys, men and women. It shows that he can trigger players to really take responsibility themselves. The last period of time, Grace really took that and stood out. That earned her a place.

“If you compare her performance against Germany with a few months earlier, it’s incomparable.

“So we were really pleased with the performance of Grace. It was exceptional against Germany. And of course, that is now the standard and we’ll see who meets the standard.”

Pressed on why Moloney appears to have improved significantly, Pauw added: “I know the answer, but I’m hesitating, because I don’t want to talk for somebody else.

“She felt she was very close to a line-up position and then not being lined up. At the moment, it was there and she somehow didn’t make that last little step.

“You need to ask her to explain further if she wants to explain further, but she decided to choose for herself her own game. And to react on the situation in the game, how she sees it.

“I hope that we’ve encouraged that, because that is what we try to teach — players need to take decisions themselves.

“We put players into situations in which they’re forced to take decisions, instead of looking at the side, asking what to do.

“So she has expressed that she had a moment where she decided to see the game in the way it comes to her and to develop from playing the game situation that she experiences.

“Because we asked aslo: ‘What happened?’ It was within two months, she jumped up a level. And in her first game against Germany at home, there was no hesitation with us to line her up, because she stood out in that moment really. 

“Please ask her to explain further, but I think it’s okay to explain it like I’m now describing. I think she’d agreed with me.”

Pauw was also asked about the controversy over Katie McCabe’s recent trip to Dubai.

The Ireland boss confirmed that she spoke to the Arsenal star on the matter, but did not want to elaborate on what was a private conversation. 

On a more general level, she said: “We have an exemption, given by the government, as elite athletes, and we should be very careful with that.

“We should stick with the protocols and guidelines that are put on our plate. We have to be very strict and aware it’s an exceptional place we are in, so we have rights to train and play, and we have obligations towards that exemption.

“That is why we’ve been without a Covid case, because everyone kept to that protocol.”

It was also confirmed yesterday that the Irish team were aiming to play two friendlies in April and a further two in June, with their opponents yet to be confirmed, while their 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup campaign is due to get underway in September, and the qualifying draw is scheduled for 30 April.

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