Hungary 0 Republic of Ireland 4
While it’s likely that the FAI’s search for a permanent successor to Vera Pauw will stretch beyond next month’s double-header against Albania, on the off-chance that Tuesday evening’s game in Budapest proves to be interim manager Eileen Gleeson’s last, she will at least be passing on a perfect start to the Republic of Ireland’s Nations League campaign.
A 4-0 win over Hungary at the Hidegkuti Nándor Stadium, to add to Saturday’s 3-0 defeat of Northern Ireland in Dublin, puts Ireland bang on course to win promotion to League A of the competition, thereby significantly boosting their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2025.
Goals from Caitlin Hayes, Katie McCabe, Kyra Carusa and Denise O’Sullivan made it a comfortable evening for Gleeson’s team which showed just one change from Saturday, Lily Agg coming in for Megan Connolly.
There was no place in the matchday squad for Marissa Sheva who featured in all three of Ireland’s World Cup games, and who cut a decidedly disconsolate looking figure when she got off the team bus. Savannah McCarthy and Éabha O’Mahony were also omitted.
It was more of the same formation-wise, with Tyler Toland partnering Agg in midfield and Denise O’Sullivan pushed further forward in support of Carusa and Lucy Quinn. Wing-backs McCabe and Heather Payne were again given license to get forward, the pair spending considerably more time in the opposition half than their own.
The prematch estimates of a 1,000 strong crowd proved wildly optimistic, the game having all the atmosphere of a training session at times. But after a scrappy start, when Ireland’s passing was way too loose, they applied themselves well to the task.
It took 20 minutes for the opening score to come, by which time Payne had been Ireland’s greatest threat down the right, Hayes getting her first international goal in just her second appearance when she headed home McCabe’s perfectly weighted cross from the right.
And it was McCabe herself who doubled the lead three minutes before half-time when she fired a rocket of a shot in to the top right corner of the Hungarian goal from 25 yards out.
The captain played in an even more advanced role after the break, when Izzy Atkinson, who replaced Lucy Quinn, took over her slot on the left, allowing McCabe push right up alongside O’Sullivan and Carusa.
But it was from down the right that the source of Ireland’s third goal came, Payne’s perfect cross headed home by Carusa for her second goal in as many games.
And O’Sullivan, who pulled the bulk of the strings all night for Ireland, made it 4-0 when she fired home Carusa’s cutback on 70 minutes. She was named player of the match and earned a sizeable chunk of praise from Carusa after: “It’s like playing with Kevin de Bruyne, you just make the runs, and she finds you. She’s awesome.”
It’s back to their clubs the squad go now, the WSL contingent of McCabe (Arsenal), Brosnan and Payne (both Everton), Atkinson and Megan Walsh (both West Ham) and Connolly and Chloe Mustaki (both Bristol City) all starting their seasons on Sunday.
But they’ll be on international duty again in a month for those home and away Nations League games against Albania. The players will keep a lookout for white smoke rising from FAI HQ in that spell. If the skies remain clear, then Gleeson will remain at the helm and attempt to make it four wins out of four.
Hungary: Szőcs (Budaörs SC); Kovács (ETO FC Győr), Papp (Ferencváros), Turányi (Bayer Leverkusen), Hanna Németh (Werder Bremen), Palakovics (Puskás Akadémia FC); Zeller (FC Köln), Süle (ETO FC Győr), Fenyvesi (Ferencváros), Szabó (Ferencváros); Kaján (Fiorentina).
Substitutes: Vachter (ETO FC Győr) for Palakovics, Vida (ETO FC Győr) for Németh, Pápai (Grasshopper) for Süle (all half-time), Savanya (ETO FC Győr) for Fenyvesi (72 mins), Nagy (Sassuolo) for Kaján (89 mins).
Republic of Ireland: Brosnan (Everton); Payne (Everton), Hayes (Celtic), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Caldwell (FC Zurich), McCabe (Arsenal); Toland (Blackburn Rovers), Agg ((London City Lionesses); O’Sullivan (NC Courage); Carusa (San Diego Wave), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City).
Substitutes: Atkinson (West Ham) for Lucy Quinn (half-time), Connolly (Bristol City) for Agg, Larkin (Glasgow City) for Payne (both 56 mins), Barrett (Standard Liege) for Carusa (74 mins), Finn (Birmingham City) for Toland (78 mins).
Referee: Zuzana Valentová (Slovakia).