Vera Pauw celebrates with her players after securing historic World Cup qualification. Ryan Byrne/INPHO

World Cup competition heats up as Pauw prepares to name first Ireland squad of 2023

The Girls In Green travel to Marbella for a training camp, which concludes with an international friendly against China PR.

A MONUMENTAL 2023 starts here.

Vera Pauw is due to name her first Republic of Ireland women’s squad of this World Cup year tomorrow morning.

The Girls In Green will travel to Marbella next week for a 10-day training camp, which concludes with an international friendly against China PR on Wednesday week, 22 February. They’ll also face Germany behind closed doors in another big test in Spain.

Their last game was in the same location, a 4-0 win over Morocco last November which closed out an unforgettable 2022.

Prior to that was the historic World Cup play-off win over Scotland at Hampden Park, when Ireland qualified for their first-ever major tournament.

Competition is starting to heat up, with limited tickets to Australia up for grabs.

23 is the official squad size, after Fifa rejected calls for an increase to 26 to line up with the men’s format. There’s also room for a small number of travelling reserves, reportedly three.

Pauw generally names larger squads. She originally selected 28 players for the Scotland showdown, but cut down to 26 for the last camp in Marbella. Since the pandemic, Ireland carry an extra player in every position and Pauw previously explained a rule change involving goalkeepers leading to her continuous initial selection of four — three always travel.


Courtney Brosnan established herself as the outright number one through qualification, the Everton shot-stopper one of the standout players as she contributed several clean sheets. Brosnan has seen her club minutes limited this season, but a big performance against Manchester United at the weekend should have her confidence high.

Grace Moloney (Reading) and Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion) are the other regular inclusions, the ‘keepers making up a third of Ireland’s WSL contingent, with Eve Badana of DLR Waves the main WNL representative.

Shelbourne 16-year-old Katie Keane was called up last time out and it’s understood she has impressed Pauw at recent home-based sessions, while Naoisha McAloon is another staking a claim at Championship outfit Durham.

Squad Selections

In terms of outfield players, there’s 20 definite spots up for grabs for Australia. The Dutch coach usually picks from the same sizeable pool.

Generally, the 12-strong WSL crew — led by captain and Arsenal star Katie McCabe — are consistent features. Liverpool’s Leanne Kiernan (ankle) and Jess Ziu (ACL) of West Ham are currently unavailable through injury, with Wexford Youths teenager Ellen Molloy (ACL) also on the long-term absentee list.

megan-connolly Megan Connolly is available for selection once again. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

That situation is looking more positive than it was in the tail end of ’22. Midfield duo Megan Connolly and Ruesha Littlejohn are back in action, while Savannah McCarthy appears to be nearing her return after signing for Shamrock Rovers. McCarthy’s fellow cruciate victim, Aoife Colvill, should be in the mix in due course, while injury-plagued Rianna Jarrett is opening a new chapter at hometown club Wexford Youths.

This time around, there’ll be the usual call-ups; the same familiar faces on the fringes joining the regular, established starters. Heather Payne should be available after college commitments Stateside ruled her out of selection for the Morocco friendly, with competition particularly fierce among the strike force.

Payne is pretty much a nailed-on inclusion, while Amber Barrett and Kyra Carusa are the other most likely candidates currently fit. Abbie Larkin, now at Rovers, and Saoirse Noonan have been regularly selected of late, the former also catching the eye at home-based sessions, while Emily Whelan had to withdraw from the November camp due to injury.

New Faces

No shortage of other options have reared their heads in recent weeks and months: Eleanor Ryan Doyle has reinvigorated her career since moving to Coventry City on loan, while two former Ireland underage internationals — German-born Emily Kraft and English-born Nicole Douglas — have impressed in the Championship and America respectively. Douglas will join Denise O’Sullivan in the NWSL this year, Arizona State’s all-time leading goalscorer drafted by Washington Spirit in January.

Pauw has spoken openly about considering new Irish-eligible players to increase squad depth over the last few months. “We qualify and suddenly there is a lot of players with Irish backgrounds emailing you,” she said in October, stressing the need for “a very tight connection with Ireland,” and offering several updates thereafter.

In December she explained that “there are four players that we are seriously looking at and following,” later name-checking Manchester United defender Aoife Mannion as she returns from an ACL injury.

Mayo ladies football and Collingwood AFLW star Sarah Rowe is another flier into the conversation, the former Irish underage international recently signing for Melbourne Victory.

chelsea-v-manchester-united-the-fa-womens-continental-tyres-league-cup-semi-final-kingsmeadow Aoife Mannion has been name-checked by Pauw in recent months. PA PA

It remains to be seen which newcomers will be in Pauw’s squad tomorrow, but it’s a huge opportunity for any involved. A lengthy training camp lies ahead in February sun, along with two games against higher-ranked opposition who are also due to play at the World Cup. (China PR are 14th in Fifa’s world rankings, Germany are second and Ireland are at an all-time high of 23rd.)

Chances are few and far between between now and the summer for those not central to the journey thus far, so the sooner new contenders can make a breakthrough, the better.

There’s another camp pencilled in for April, another friendly or two abroad expected, before preparations ramp up in Dublin in late June and early July.

The Girls In Green will be sent on their way to the World Cup with a glamour friendly against France (ranked fifth in the world) at Tallaght Stadium — the Aviva was unavailable due to “scheduled pitch redevelopment work” – on 6 July.

Then it’s destination Brisbane, where Pauw’s side will base themselves for the tournament.

They face co-hosts Australia in a blockbuster opener at the 83,000-capacity Stadium Australia in Sydney on 20 July. They also play Canada in Perth, and Nigeria in Brisbane, later in Group B.

It all starts here.

Ireland’s most recent squads

World Cup play-off v Scotland

scotland squad FAI. FAI.

International friendly v Morocco 

morocco FAI. FAI.

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