Ireland step up preparations for World Cup qualifier in Sweden in April

Pauw’s squad face Poland in Spain in the first of three matches in six days

Republic of Ireland v Poland La Manga, Spain, 2.30pm

A makeshift tournament under a Spanish sun, with three matches in six days, is precisely what Vera Pauw requires to ensure that the Republic of Ireland can live with Sweden in Gothenburg come the World Cup qualifier on April 12th.

Tack on cap 100 for Liverpool skipper Niamh Fahey against a competent Polish outfit and there is plenty to keep the growing fan base captivated.

"That's a tough question," Fahey replied when it's suggested that this milestone surpasses older brother Gary lifting Sam Maguire in 2001. "He's landing today for tomorrow's match so I'll be able to ask him myself.

"My family are immensely proud of me and we're a GAA-strong household so they might rank an All-Ireland slightly higher or on par. I'll have to ask my dad about that one. When I put on that green jersey, they come to all my games at Tallaght. It's fantastic for them and myself."

Fahey won her own Celtic Cross with the Galway ladies football team in 2004.

“Yeah, I suppose at this stage I could probably trump him.”

Even now, after everything the 34-year-old has achieved, from a decent stint at Arsenal before Chelsea then Bordeaux led her to Liverpool in 2018, the failure to qualify for a major tournament continues to rankle in a career that is guaranteed to stand the test of time.

“I have managed to get 99 caps but not making it to a major finals is a disappointment so hopefully that will happen in this campaign. We are in a tough group but I am very confident that we can finally get across the line.”

It is the bad days that linger when Fahey is asked for memories of the road to 100 caps.

“We had the Euro [2009] play-off against Iceland. It was 1-1 in the first leg at home and lost 3-0 away. The second leg shouldn’t have gone ahead because the pitch was frozen. They had some special footwear on but we couldn’t get to grips.

"It was like ice-skating and one of our players came off and went to hospital thinking she'd broken both her wrists from falling on the pitch. It only went ahead because there were cameras there and Uefa said it had to. Noel King was going crazy, wanting the game called off after two minutes.

“That was closest we’ve gotten to date.”

Ireland (possible): Brosnan; Fahey, Louise Quinn, Caldwell; Ziu, Connolly, O'Sullivan, McCabe (capt); Lucy Quinn, Payne, Carusa.

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent

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