Colin Bell says Slovakia win vital if Ireland are to retain World Cup hopes

Victory in first of two crucial home games would set up Netherlands clash nicely

Leanne Kiernan: “We have a lot of pace up front but we didn’t utilise that in the Netherlands.” Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

With qualification still a very tall order, Republic of Ireland manager Colin Bell suggests that his aim going into the toughest spell of his side's World Cup qualifying campaign is to give his opposite numbers with Norway and the Netherlands the odd sleepless night.

If they do it courtesy of a few more clean sheets and a win along the way then, he feels, his players might just find themselves in the final shake-up for a trip to France next year.

"We have worked very hard to be competitive and now we have a situation where we have to think we might even qualify but we can't forget who we are playing against; Norway and the Netherlands," says Bell who is without Harriet Scott, Megan Campbell, Stephanie Roche and Heather Payne for the forthcoming qualifiers against Slovakia and the Netherlands.

“Back when the draw was taking place,” he continues, “Norway and Holland would only have been thinking about each other: ‘One of us is going to end up in the play-offs, and we might not qualify if we end up there . . .’


“Our aim has always been to bully ourselves into that but we can only do it if we keep winning. We have to see if we can make them nervous, see if we can rattle them up a little bit because realistically you would have originally said that we had absolutely no chance of qualifying. But what we’ve seen since is that if we do do certain things that we have aimed to in our games, if we have that belief, then we have shown that we can achieve things.”

More clinical

Bell still believes that the much improved defensive side of the team’s performances is what provides the basis for continued progress but he is hoping that his strikers will be a little more clinical when chances do come their way.

The return of Áine O'Gorman broadens his options on the attacking side of things but Leanne Kiernan and Amber Barrett are likely to feature over the two games again, as they did away to the European Champions in November.

“We have a lot of pace up front but we didn’t utilise that in the Netherlands,” he says. “We need Leanne or Amber to be really cool when those chances do arise because you score, you probably win the game.”

Kiernan says that she has learned from the experience that night and goes into the return game with high hopes of upsetting the highly-rated visitors.

“We’re quite confident going into it,” she says. “We’ve seen what they play like and we think we can get a result. We have to keep our focus, make sure not to open ourselves up, but if we can do that then we really think we can get a good result.”

Before that, the team must win the first of the two games of they are to meaningfully stay in the race.

“My job is to focus on Slovakia. If we want to be involved towards the top of the table, we have to beat them, that’s a fact,” concluded Bell.

Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (Manchester City), Amanda Budden (Cork City), Amanda McQuillan (Shelbourne)
Defenders: Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Sophie Perry-Campbell (Brighton and Hove Albion), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Bordeaux).
Midfielders: Tyler Toland (Maiden City), Megan Connolly (Florida State University), Karen Duggan (Peamount United), Denise O'Sullivan (NC Courage), Roma McLaughlin (Shelbourne), Amy Boyle-Carr (Sion Swifts).
Forwards: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne), Amber Barrett (Peamount United), Isibeal Atkinson (Shelbourne), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Claire O'Riordan (Wexford Youths), Dearbhaile Beirne (UCD Waves)

FIFA 2019 World Cup Qualifying Group Three – Fixtures
April 6th
: Republic of Ireland v Slovakia, Tallaght Stadium, KO 5pm
April 10th: Republic of Ireland v The Netherlands, Tallaght Stadium, KO 7.30pm

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times