Raheny United poised to break new ground in Champions League
Dublin side face Bristol Academy in first leg and could meet Barcelona in the next round
Women’s National League champions Raheny United will be aiming to upset the odds at Richmond Park tomorrow night (kick-off 7.30pm), when they play host to English outfit Bristol Academy in the first leg of their Uefa Women’s Champions League last-32 encounter.
If Casey McQuillan’s charges were to progress over the two-legs, they would become the first-ever Irish club to reach the last 16 of the competition. Peamount United competed at this stage three years ago, but were ultimately eliminated by a slick Paris Saint-Germain side.
However, having secured back-to-back WNL titles last season, in addition to consecutive FAI Women’s Cup successes in 2012 and 2013, confidence within the Raheny squad is at an all-time high.
Goalkeeper Niamh Reid-Burke, Siobhan Killeen and Rachel Graham have all featured at senior international level for Ireland recently, while current Continental Tyres WNL Player of the Month Katie McCabe is a handful for any defence.
Striker Clare Shine (who was also a recipient of the monthly award back in April) is an injury doubt for the game in Inchicore, as is defender Keeva Keenan.
The winner of this two-leg tie will face either SK Slavia Praha or Barcelona in the next round, but before the north Dubliners can take their future prospects into consideration, they will need to produce a massive performance against a Bristol side that finished just five points behind Liverpool in last season’s FA WSL.
Captain Jemma Rose provides great leadership at the heart of their defence, with the main goal threat being offered by Natalia Pablos and Natasha Harding. Spanish international Pablos can call on plenty of experience at this level from her time at Rayo Vallecano, whereas Harding – who has been capped 17-times by Wales – is a versatile performer who can operate either as a wide or a central attacker.