Vera Pauw comfortable making the tough choices as Ireland eye six points

Diane Caldwell has been pushed out of back three with Savannah McCarthy impressing

Diane Caldwell in action for Ireland against Belgium last April. Photo: Patrick Smets/Inpho

Diane Caldwell in action for Ireland against Belgium last April. Photo: Patrick Smets/Inpho

 

Due to Sunday’s FAI Cup final between Wexford Youths and Shelbourne at Tallaght stadium, Ellen Molloy, Aoibheann Clancy, Ciara Grant and Saoirse Noonan will be slightly late linking up with Vera Pauw’s Republic of Ireland squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Slovakia next Thursday and Georgia on Tuesday week.

Another home based player, Savannah McCarthy of Galway WFC, has proved her worth recently on the left of a back three, so much so that North Carolina Courage’s Diane Caldwell has been unable to command selection in the team.

“It’s very, very difficult for [Caldwell],” said Pauw. “I’ve spoken to her of course. I had a long meeting by Teams, we do put a lot of energy into it.

“That is one of those very unfortunate situations in top level sport. If somebody is doing so well, the team needs that kind of quality and with Niamh Fahey doing so well on the right side, yeah, you get to a point that you need to make a choice.

“It doesn’t mean she’s out forever, she’s a very good player Diane Caldwell, and I’ve huge respect for her. But we are professionals and we need to win games.”

Pauw never likes the idea of boxing herself into a “must win” scenario but it is hard to see Ireland reaching the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand without a six point return from this international window.

“Let’s turn it the other way around,” said Pauw. “If we manage to put the intensity on the pitch that we have done against Sweden and Finland, and don’t take that lightly, it’s extremely difficult, but if we get a good result and win both games, then we are on track for qualification.

“So, this is probably a more difficult week than the previous one. Although the opponents were ranked much higher, this is the crucial week. If we do not manage to get that intensity on the pitch, and that is emotionally so difficult to get to that stage, then we will not manage to get those points.”

Emotional pitch

What became apparent during last month’s 1-0 defeat to Sweden and 2-1 win over Finland in Helsinki, is the emotional pitch set by Denise O’Sullivan and Katie McCabe, which the entire squad also attained, cannot wane if this team is to feature at a major tournament.

And that is what they crave above all else.

“Slovakia is a very solid team with good organisation and individuals that can determine the outcome of a game,” Pauw continued. “Defensively solid, so you build against that wall and they are very dangerous on counter attack.

“It is not like Georgia, where they sit deep in their penalty box and are just running out, because they have much more qualities. You really need to put them under pressure to steal the ball away from them.”

The FAI hope to break the previous attendance record of 5,328, against Ukraine in 2019, but Pauw quelled premature calls for a switch to Lansdowne Road until the 7,000 capacity Tallaght is sold out on a regular basis.

“The Aviva Stadium would be fantastic if we could fill it. That would be amazing. It will come.”

Before that, Ireland need to take nine points to Sweden in March, and that requires McCabe and company producing a dominant 180 minutes against lesser opposition.

Rianna Jarrett drops out of the squad as Molloy returns from the under-19s while Ruesha Littlejohn and Kyra Carusa, who plays Champions League for Danish side HB Køge, have both recovered from injury.

“There are other players better, it’s simple as that,” said Pauw of Jarrett’s exclusion. “It’s an elite sport and other players at this moment are better than she is. She is on standby.”

Republic of Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading)

Defenders: Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Diane Caldwell (North Carolina Courage), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City), 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), Ellen Molloy (Wexford Youths), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Niamh Farrelly (Glasgow City), Ciara Grant (Shelbourne), Aoibheann Clancy (Wexford Youths), Roma McLaughlin (Central Connecticut State University)

Forwards: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Kyra Carusa (HB Koge), Leanne Kiernan (Liverpool), Saoirse Noonan (Shelbourne), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

Fixtures

Fifa Women’s World Cup 2023 qualifying - Group A

Thursday, November 25th: Republic of Ireland v Slovakia, Tallaght stadium, 7pm (live on RTÉ2) Tuesday, November 30th: Republic of Ireland v Georgia, Tallaght stadium, 7pm (live on RTÉ2)

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