Republic of Ireland 3 Australia 2
Tigers one and all. That is how manager Vera Pauw described this workaholic group of equally paid Irish internationals. The night was supposed to belong to Sam Kerr but a trademark header by Louise Quinn, naturally from a Katie McCabe corner, allowed the Republic of Ireland to snap a seven game losing streak in front of 3,341 mostly young girls in Tallaght.
Maybe, just maybe, something special is stirring ahead of world number two Sweden coming to town for the World Cup qualifier on October 21st.
The other Quinn was just as mighty in victory.
Three touches were all Lucy Quinn needed. The Birmingham City striker has been chasing a Republic of Ireland cap for five years. The Irish passport arrived last week and the 27 year-old tore into her debut like someone desperate to make up for lost time.
Pauw needed Quinn to be this effective this quickly. Ireland has been crying out for a centre forward to match the quality of McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan in behind.
Three touches were all she needed. In the second minute of this zig-zagging friendly Quinn whipped a cross for Amber Barrett to force a save out of Mackenzie Arnold. Before the Matildas could settle into their rigid structure Quinn drew a foul on the left edge of the box.
McCabe territory. The skipper shaped to send a diagonal ball towards the lighthouse that is the original Quinn. Instead, Lucy Quinn’s right foot curled it over the wall and off the post and into the net off a hapless Arnold.
Quinn had done everything but score the goal, and for about 10 minutes Irish football was on top of the world. A series of bizarre deflections and one awful lapse in concentration wasn’t long dropping them back down to number 33 on the Fifa ladder.
There is a good reason for that ranking. Just like there is a good reason for the FAI initiating goalkeeping clinics at all age grades.
Ireland were coping with the Olympic semi-finalists intensive press, until Courtney Nevin dropped a speculative cross that exposed Savannah McCarthy's lack of height in a three women defence. Emily Gielnik fed Mary Fowler on the edge of the area as the ghost of Ukraine was about to revisit Courtney Brosnan. The recently signed Everton goalie made a pig's ear of Fowler's low shot.
Kerr, on her 100th cap, should have made it 2-1 to Australia moments later but she headed straight at Brosnan.
Remarkably, Ireland reclaimed the lead on 22 minutes. Calamity reigned as Australia’s Alanna Kennedy headed Áine O’Gorman dangerous delivery off her own crossbar. Heather Payne, who was a menace throughout, brought a decent save out of Arnold. The resulting McCabe corner matched Louise Quinn’s leap before a bout of pinball ended up with O’Sullivan leathering a shot off Kyra Cooney-Cross that spun into the goal. Wim Kieft eat your heart out.
The 2023 World Cup hosts were tuned in now, with Kerr hunting a 49th international goal to mark the milestone. Brosnan would deny the Chelsea forward’s best opportunity not long after an impressive stop from Gielnik.
All hands and legs and hips on deck, McCarthy blocked Gielnik and Tameka Yallop in quick succession.
Ireland were desperate for the safe port of half-time but Brosnan had no chance after a rasping left footer by Fowler, who rejected an Ireland cap in 2019, rebounded off McCarthy and landed in the net.
The presumption that Australia would dominate the second half disappeared when Louise Quinn stooped low to put Ireland 3-2 ahead off McCabe’s in swinging corner.
“I like defending but that is where I feel comfortable,” said the Birmingham captain.
The double act almost repeated the trick before the Australians attempted to run Ireland into the dirt. O’Sullivan, calm and energetic in equal measure, and Jamie Finn matched the pace, as a frustrated Kerr picked up a yellow card.
Whenever Ireland went into their shell, Louise Quinn or Niamh Fahey would stick a boot in or O'Sullivan would appear with two slick touches or McCabe would draw a foul.
“Fantastic mentally,” said a delighted Pauw. “What a bunch of tigers we have. We know now that we are on the right way and we will go our own path.”
Judging by the noise they will not be going alone.
Republic of Ireland: Brosnan; O'Gorman, Fahey, Louise Quinn, McCarthy, McCabe; Finn (Caldwell 89), O'Sullivan, Barrett (Farrelly 59); Payne (Kiernan 89), Lucy Quinn (Whelan 71).
Australia: Arnold (Williams h-t); Nevin (Beard 68), Polkinghorne, Logarzo (Wheeler 53), Catley; Fowler, Yallop (Grant 68), Kennedy (Checker ht), Gielnik; Cooney-Cross, Kerr.
Referee: Paula Brady (Ireland).