Ireland’s Birmingham trio happy to change focus from club matters

Louise Quinn, Lucy Quinn and Jamie Finn will be key cogs against Slovakia and Georgia

Jamie Finn is one of three Ireland players at Birmingham City. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jamie Finn is one of three Ireland players at Birmingham City. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

Despite all the positive vibes surrounding this Republic of Ireland squad ahead of Thursday’s World Cup qualifier against Slovakia in Tallaght, the plight of its Birmingham City players cannot be glossed over.

The club has seven Irish players on their books, including Louise Quinn, Lucy Quinn and Jamie Finn, a trio that are expected to shine for Ireland in November, but zero wins from eight games in the Women’s Super League became a confirmed crisis when manager Scott Booth was sacked last Thursday.

The BBC are reporting that Birmingham players continue to raise concerns about the treatment of women at the club despite an FA investigation last season when it was revealed that City’s female squad were denied access to acceptable changing and dining facilities, along with restrictions on the use of the club gym.

In response, Birmingham City stated: “The training facilities remain a challenge for everyone at the club and are not limited to the women’s team.”

Booth’s dismissal was quickly followed by Saturday’s 5-0 defeat to Chelsea.

“They’re a top side with top quality players,” said Finn, an unused sub at Kingsmeadow, when both Quinns started and Emily Whelan came off the bench. “They moved the ball quickly. We need to take whatever positives out of those games to bring into the next games.”

Despite Finn’s struggle for minutes and Birmingham being embroiled in a relegation scrap with Leicester City, the 23-year-old has embraced the switch to a fully professional lifestyle.

“We trained twice or three nights per week at Shelbourne,” she explained. “It’s nearly every day over in Birmingham so I had to adapt quickly. I think I have done well, but it’s what I always wanted, to get to that level.

“Even being on the pitch every day, getting touches of the ball, helps.”

Finn can expect multiple touches against Slovakia, and Georgia next Tuesday, as she becomes an increasingly important member of Ireland’s midfield three, with her pace and intellect to the fore during last month’s 2-1 victory in Helsinki.

“There’s still a buzz from getting that win away from home. It was a massive win for us. We need to bring that buzz and work ethic into the next game.”

Such work ethic, mainly pressing opponents into error, has become an integral part of this team’s development, and despite all their key players being available this week, a number of injuries have put a strain on Vera Pauw’s squad.

Liverpool striker Leanne Kiernan, Wexford Youths’ hugely promising teenager Ellen Molloy and Glasgow City’s Claire Walsh have been ruled out with injury. Whelan, Celtic’s Isibeal Atkinson and Shelbourne duo Jess Ziu and 16-year-old Jessie Stapleton have been called up.

Molloy was the stand out performer in Sunday’s FAI Cup final, as Wexford beat Shels 3-1, only for the 17-year-old to suffer a hamstring strain in the final seconds.

At least the Granny Rule is alive and well as Megan Walsh bolsters Ireland’s goalkeeping options, having received her passport yesterday.

“It is a real honour and privilege to be called up into the Ireland squad," said Walsh. “I was with Rianna Jarrett, Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Connolly at Brighton last year when my Irish heritage came up and things went from there.

“It has taken about 12 months to finally get here. I am excited at the opportunity to be part of the Irish women’s team and to work with Vera.

“My grandparents, on my Dad’s side, were from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, where we still have family. I know they would be so proud of me being part of the Ireland team.”

Walsh is not expected to usurp Everton’s Courtney Brosnan ahead of the Slovaks’ visit but the Brighton captain gives Pauw a genuine alternative in a traditionally troublesome position.

“I realise I will have to fight hard for a place on the team but that’s always the case in elite football and I have had to do that wherever I have been in football,” Walsh added. “The main thing is to qualify for the World Cup and I know all the squad will want to make sure we get out of the group.”

Qualification almost demands the gathering of six points over the next seven days.

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion).

Defenders: Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (North Carolina Courage), Jessie Stapleton (Shelbourne), Savannah McCarthy (Galway WFC), Éabha O’Mahony (Boston College), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United).

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Niamh Farrelly (Glasgow City), Ciara Grant (Shelbourne), Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut State University), Jess Ziu (Shelbourne).

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Kyra Carusa (HB Koge), Emily Whelan (Birmingham City) Isibeal Atkinson (Celtic), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City).

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