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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Laszlo Geczo/INPHO Ireland's Savannah McCarthy (file pic).
# misfortune
'It’s heartbreaking for her personally especially. It’s a severe injury'
Vera Pauw has lamented the loss of key defender Savannah McCarthy ahead of her side’s upcoming World Cup qualifier with Sweden.

VERA PAUW’S Ireland will be without some important players for their upcoming World Cup qualifier away to Sweden.

Diane Caldwell (thigh), Savannah McCarthy (knee), Niamh Farrelly (ankle), Emily Whelan (quad), Aoife Colvill (knee) and Saoirse Noonan (knee) have all been ruled out of the 12 April clash against the side ranked number two in the world.

Defence is a particular area of concern. McCarthy has impressed in the campaign as part of a back three, while Caldwell would usually be considered the most obvious alternative option to the Galway player.

The ACL injury, suffered during a recent 1-1 draw with DLR Waves, is a tough blow for Kerry native McCarthy, who has recently become a regular presence in the starting XI, after a long spell out — there was a five-year gap between her fifth and sixth caps.

Pauw, who has previously lauded the player’s resilience in finding a way back into the international fold, acknowledged the seriousness of this latest setback.

“It’s heartbreaking for her personally especially,” Pauw said at today’s squad announcement. “It’s a severe injury and we’ll do everything to help her recover. She was a different type of defender than the other two [Louise Quinn and Niamh Fahey] in the centre three. That’s why she was so important. First of all she’s a left-footer, but secondly she’s a completely different player. If you want to step up to the highest level you need different kinds of central defenders with all the abilities. You need a very good headerer. I would say the twin towers is okay, but triple towers is too much. You need a very mobile terrier in that centre three. We need to see how we solve that.” 

With Farrelly also missing, Claire Walsh, Chloe Mustaki, Harriet Scott and Megan Campbell are among the players named in today’s squad that could potentially slot into the back three assuming the team opt to retain that formation.

With 42 caps to her name, Liverpool star Campbell would be the most experienced option, but the 28-year-old has had her own long-term injury problems in recent years and still needs to be managed carefully.

The Louth native was not risked, for instance, in last month’s Pinatar Cup games.

“Megan Campbell, with load management, is fit to play,” Pauw said. “She’s doing well at her club. 

“She was overloaded [last month], she played too many games leading up to the Pinatar Cup. We saw her knee swelling up and decided to not to overload her. She wanted to play. We decided for the future of her career to not load her again. Together with the club, we have now a very good management of her load.” 

There was one new face in today’s squad in the form of London City Lionesses midfielder Lily Agg.

The 28-year-old hails from Brighton and qualifies to represent the Republic through her Cork-born grandmother.

It took roughly a year for her passport and all the other necessary documentation to be completed, and the Irish boss is delighted to finally have the former Arsenal youth player at her disposal after a long wait.

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“Lily Agg was a trialist before in the squad,” Pauw explained. “Unfortunately, she got injured. Otherwise, we would have seen her earlier. She’s a very good battler in midfield. Her biggest quality is her drive, to constantly press, even though she’s an attacking player.

“Her biggest asset is that she doesn’t let anything go, never has one moment of disappointment and she constantly puts the opponent under pressure. If it’s not for the lineup, it’s also important as an opposition player to have her in the squad and in the training sessions to play the opposition and put real pressure on them.”

Looking to the task ahead, Pauw admits Ireland have their work cut out against a team that have won all five of their qualifying matches so far and are virtually assured of finishing top of the group.

“Sweden are ranked second in the world, that’s not for nothing. They are very solid in the execution of their tasks. They’re so determined to just do their task without any ego. That is very difficult to make a plan against. We have our plan of course, but it is a very, very tough task.

“The big chance was the first game [at Tallaght last October]. If you’ve seen them playing recently, all their players are fit. The first game they were missing a few players, they were just coming out of the Olympic Games so every player was very tired. Now you can see in their play they are fresh, they are lively, they are exciting to watch. It’s a great challenge and we’re looking forward to it.” 

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