Eileen Gleeson: ‘We have drawn three of the top five teams in Europe. What more could you ask for’

Ireland’s Euro 2025 women’s qualifier against England set for Aviva switch

Ireland will play at least one women’s Euro 2025 qualifier at the Aviva Stadium later this year, with the visit of Sarina Wiegman’s England expected to sell out the national venue.

Eileen Gleeson’s team have drawn the defending European champions in Nations League Group 3A, alongside France and Sweden. The top two qualify directly for the Euros in Switzerland.

England are ranked fourth in the world, with France third and Sweden fifth. Ireland are currently 24th on the Fifa list.

“We wanted to be here, now we are,” said Denise O’Sullivan on X. “Let’s have it.”


Speaking from Uefa headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, Gleeson adopted a more measured tone: “There is definitely no denying it’s a super tough draw. I’ve just talked with [Wiegman] and everyone is of the same opinion. We have drawn three of the top five teams in Europe. What more could you ask for?

“As [the top] fourth seed, they wanted to avoid us as well. We take positives from it as any of those teams can take points from each other. So maybe you won’t see a clear runaway winner within the group.

“They’re all super exciting and I’m sure the stadia will be packed out with support.”

Tallaght stadium, where Ireland play most of their games, recently had its capacity increased to 10,000, after the local council completed the fourth stand, but 35,994 attended the Aviva in September 2023 for the venue’s first ever female football international, to witness Ireland beat Northern Ireland 3-0.

The Aviva can hold 51,700 and FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill has stated the association’s intention to switch more women’s matches to the Dublin 4 ground.

But the Aviva will struggle to accommodate Ireland in the first round of matches on Friday, April 5th and Tuesday, April 9th as Leinster play Leicester on the Saturday in the Champions Cup. However, a quick turnover between the sports has been done before.

The May-June slot is already accommodating international football at the Aviva on Tuesday, June 4th for the men’s friendly against Hungary. This is a direct clash with an Ireland women’s qualifier.

England, France or Sweden could come to Dublin on Friday, May 31st, nine days after the stadium hosts the Europa League final. There also appears to be a clear run for the July 12th and July 16th dates as the Aviva concerts – Pink and Taylor Swift – are happening over five days in June.

“For us it’s a big challenge,” Gleeson continued. “We’ve seen a reduced disparity between teams in women’s football across Europe at the top level.”

The last meeting between the neighbours was a 1-0 loss at Dalymount Park in March 1987.

“It’s another game. That’s what we focus on. Yes, the girls will be more familiar with the English girls, playing against them in their current leagues.”

England at Wembley or in Dublin is never just another game though, is it? “I am just keeping grounded here in my approach,” Gleeson replied. “I am definitely not trying to hype one game over another.”

Despite the enormous challenge facing Ireland, their place in the Nations League top tier guarantees a playoff to reach a second successive major tournament in Switzerland next year. The third- and fourth-placed teams in each Nations League Division A go into a two-leg playoff against a country from Division C on October 23rd and 29th.

If Ireland get through those games, they would face a Division B team, which could be Scotland or Wales, over two legs between November 27th and December 3rd to reach the Euros.

Ireland faced Sweden in qualification for the 2023 World Cup, losing 1-0 in Tallaght before Katie McCabe’s goal secured a famous draw in Gothenburg. The most recent meeting with France was a 3-0 defeat, also in Tallaght, before departure to Australia last summer. England beat Germany in the Euro 2022 final at Wembley before losing last summer’s World Cup final 1-0 to Spain.

“There’s no getting away from it – it’s probably the hardest group any Irish side has been placed in before. And that’s the general feeling around the auditorium as well, I got plenty of looks from other associations. It is what it is.

“It’s basically a Euro semi-final for us in every game. Also it’s a challenge, there is excitement. Yeah, we’re here now. This Ireland group has the capacity to ‘outperform’. They always step on to the pitch and try their absolute best to win the games.”

Uefa will confirm dates and venues on Wednesday.

Nations League/Euro 2025 qualifiers

Qualifying matchdays 1&2: Friday, April 5th & Tuesday, April 9th

Qualifying matchdays 3&4: Friday, May 31st & Tuesday, June 4th

Qualifying matchdays 5&6: Friday, July 12th & Tuesday, July 16th

Playoff draw: July 19th.

Playoff round 1 (2 legs): 23rd-29th October

Playoff round 2 (2 legs): November 27th-December 3rd

European Championships: July 2nd-27th, 2025 in Switzerland

Ireland’s Nations League Group 3A rivals

Only world champions Spain have beaten the Hervé Renard-coached French since their penalty shoot-out loss to Australia in last year’s World Cup quarter-final. Portugal, Austria, Norway and Germany tried and failed to subdue Lyon pair Kadidiatou Diani and Eugénie Le Sommer.


A golden era under Sarina Wiegman visits Dublin as part of four Nations League matches in 2024, male and female, with two potential trips to Wembley Stadium. The Lionesses are so lethal that Irish skipper Katie McCabe plays full back for Arsenal to facilitate generational forwards Beth Mead and Alessia Russo.


Like England and France, the Blågult were only denied world domination last year by La Rioja. Ireland know all about Gunners striker Stina Blackstenius after the 1-0 loss in Tallaght in October 2021 but the Swedes will remember Courtney Brosnan’s Gothenburg heroics from 2022.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent