Republic of Ireland 3 Northern Ireland 0
[Lucy Quinn 30, Carusa 70, Agg 85]
The Republic of Ireland dominated Northern Ireland from start to finish on a momentous day for women’s sport that will be felt across the entire island.
In short, the professionals overwhelmed the semi-professionals. Put it another way, the 24th ranked side in the world picked apart their 47th ranked visitors with goals by Lucy Quinn, Kyra Carusa and Lily Agg.
Quinn entered the history books as she became the first woman international to score at the Aviva Stadium.
The Southampton-born forward could have claimed a hat-trick before the interval but despite the poor finishing, Ireland gave a record 35,944 attendance their money’s worth. Granted, €20 a ticket was a bargain.
Despite a flat opening to the new Nations League competition, not helped by a 1pm kick-off, interim coach Eileen Gleeson can point to a number of positives.
In particular, Tyler Toland returned from a four-year exile to be named player of the match.
Toland was initially capped at 16 by Colin Bell, and despite a turbulent six years in the unforgiving world of English and Spanish club football, the Donegal native has retained that rare ability of letting the ball do the work. The 22-year-old only takes a second touch when it is absolutely needed.
Ireland missed her skills at the World Cup.
Despite a similar freeze-out under former coach Vera Pauw, Diane Caldwell looked comfortable on the left of a back three that included 28-year-old Caitlin Hayes. The Celtic defender was parachuted into national camp this week with a newly processed Irish passport.
Both veteran defenders oozed calmness, albeit against poor opposition, with their presence allowing Megan Connolly to anchor the midfield.
Hayes should have opened the scoring on 30 minutes when Lucy Quinn’s corner gave her a free header at the back post. Shannon Turner put the ball out for another corner which sparked excitement from the crowd as Katie McCabe, potentially, lined up another Olimpico.
Instead, McCabe’s inswinger saw a Rachel Furness clearance fall for Quinn who shot on sight. A deflection helped the ball into the bottom corner of Turners’ net.
Quinn had two more looks before the break, a lob on to the roof of the net and another snapshot that Sarah McFadden cleared off the goal line after McCabe’s footwork created space to whip a dangerous cross.
Carusa was her usual physical self as the lone forward, although a clear difference from the World Cup was the sight of O’Sullivan and Quinn in close support.
The San Diego Wave striker is a nuisance. She gets in front of most defenders and possesses the strength to hold up possession.
Northern Ireland were living off their wits but Ireland’s sloppiness kept the contest afloat.
Early in the second half, Carusa peeled around McFadden but Demi Vance blocked a goal-bound effort. Her moment would come.
On of the biggest cheers of this sleepy lunchtime game was the arrival of Abbie Larkin on 65 minutes for Heather Payne. Born and raised a stone’s throw away, the Ringsend teenager’s first contribution was to let fly from a solid McCabe pass into the penalty area. It skimmed wide of Turner’s left post.
Carusa secured all three points with 20 minutes to spare. Her goal came from two sources, a speculative McCabe assist and terrible defending by Rebecca Holloway. The Racing Louisville defender was surprised by how far Turner had come without screaming for the ball. As indecision reigned, Carusa knew to keep running and shoot on sight from 30 metres.
Agg put the result beyond all doubt with a header from a McCabe corner, that was helped by half the Northern Ireland defence crowding around Louise Quinn.
Gleeson’s squad went straight from the Aviva to the airport for a chartered flight to Budapest where they face Hungary on Tuesday night.
Ireland: Brosnan (Everton); Hayes (Celtic), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Caldwell (FC Zurich); Payne (Everton), Toland (Blackburn Rovers), Connolly (Bristol City), O’Sullivan (NC Courage), McCabe (Arsenal); Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City); Carusa (San Diego Wave).
Substitutes: Larkin (Glasgow City) for Payne (59), Agg (London City Lionesses) for Connolly, Barrett (Standard Liége) for Lucy Quinn (both 83), Whelan (Glasgow City) for Carusa, Atkinson (West Ham United) for Caldwell (both 89).
Northern Ireland: Turner (Wolverhampton Wanderers); Magee (Cliftonville), McFadden (Durham), Vance (Glentoran); Hamilton (Lewes), Furness (Bristol City), Andrews (Glentoran), Callaghan (Cliftonville), Holloway (Racing Loiusville); Wilson (Glentoran), Magill (Aston Villa).
Substitutions: Wade (Reading) for Wilson, Caldwell (Glentoran) for Callaghan (both 72), Rafferty (Southampton) for Holloway, McCarron (Glentoran) (both 82)
Referee: Hristiyana Guteva (Bulgaria).