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After feeling invincible, Ireland get wake-up call against Wales

Main lesson from the night: this team’s journey is never not interesting. In a rollercoaster kind of way

If you can do it in Tallaght on a dank February night, surely there’s a reasonable chance you can do it anywhere? Win a football match, that is. And all this Republic of Ireland team has done since last summer’s World Cup is, largely, win. Until Tuesday’s visit of Wales: played seven, won six, drew one, scored 20, conceded two. No wonder Eileen Gleeson has a smiley head on her.

Granted, the opposition during that run hasn’t quite been of elite level, “no disrespect, but….” the gist of how the Irish players have started their candid assessments of their unbeaten streak.

That will all change, of course, from April when they start their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign, when they could well be chucked in to a group with two of the world’s top six sides.

Scary? Yes.


Exciting? Ish.

So, this was the final dress rehearsal before that challenge comes around. And as Tony O’Donoghue reminded us on the Six One news, Ireland and Wales go back a long way. All the way back to 1973, in fact, when Ireland’s women played their first ever official international in Llanelli, slaying the dragons, so to speak, 3-2.

And not since 2012 in Turner’s Cross have they lost to Wales, a fair indication of the longevity of so many in this current squad the fact that Ruesha Littlejohn, Louise Quinn, Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Campbell all togged out that day.

So, Ireland v Wales. Or Cymru as we should now call them out of respect for their preference to be known by their Welsh language name.

Although, it was a couple of years back that their association’s chief executive, FAI old boy Noel Mooney, suggested it was more because they wanted new faces beside them at Uefa and Fifa meetings.

“We sit by the Ukrainians all the time and that’s nice because we’ve become good friends with them. But we would like to sit by the Croatians and the Czechs a bit more.”

Imagine how hurt Cyprus felt by him neglecting to mention how good their company is?

Any how, team news. Two changes from last Friday’s scoreless draw with Italy, Amber Barrett and Leanne Kiernan in, news mightily received by the Tallaght faithful, Barrett and Kiernan being very much loved.

“And for so long it was a banker who would start,” said Karen Duggan, doffing her cap to how competitive this squad has become and how many sleepless nights Gleeson must have while trying to dwindle her selection down to a mere XI.

Teams out. Anthems done and dusted. Twenty-two minutes in and Ireland were 2-0 down. Cymru were doing it in Tallaght on a dank February night. This was not in the script. Defensively, it was, to be frank, carnage.

From sounding giddily enthusiastic prematch, George Hamilton and Méabh De Búrca’s commentary dipped to in or around baritone level, Wales making mince meat of our rearguard, both of them nigh on lost for words.

“Um,” was the most George could muster in that spell.

“Have there been any positives?” Marie Crowe asked Duggan and Rianna Jarrett at half-time. They stroked their chins. “They haven’t been too frequent,” said Duggan, diplomatically.

A flurry of half-time changes, Gleeson presented with the first rescue job of her spell at the helm of the good ship Republic of Ireland, but while things were a bit tidier at the back, the threat up front remained largely ineffectual. Script? Shredded.

By now you’d be thinking, if we get world champions Spain in our Euro 2025 qualifying group, or Germany or France or the Netherlands and/or England, how painful might the experience be?

Football, as we know, is a funny old game. Invincible before kick-off in Tallaght on this Tuesday night. After? Mother of God, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands and/or England? We’ll be pummelled.

And having lost five of their six Nations League A games, Wales can attest to how tricky it can be to step up a level. That played seven, won six, drew one, scored 20, conceded two trip was beyond enjoyable, but the journey, you’d be fearing, is about to get decidedly bumpier.

Then again, maybe a 2-0 defeat by Wales in Tallaght on a dank February night was just what the doctor ordered. A string of wins against lowly opposition can, after all, lull you in to a false sense of comfiness.

“A disappointing night, but the main positive is that this has happened in a friendly and not in a qualifier, hopefully we can learn a lot from tonight,” as Méabh put it.

The main lesson from the night: this team’s journey is never not interesting. In a rollercoaster kind of way.