Clare’s Aislinn Meaney and Chloe Maloney both starred for the Republic of Ireland Women’s Under 17 team after holding Netherlands to a scoreless draw in their UEFA European Championships Qualifer at Turner’s Cross in Cork today.
Dave Connell’s side now need to beat Hungary on Tuesday to finish on seven points and will top the group if the Netherlands fail to beat England. If both the Irish and Dutch win on Tuesday then the destination of the automatic place will come down to goal difference with Netherlands currently on plus four after their 5-1 win over Hungary while Ireland are on plus 2 after their 2-0 win over the English.
Ireland made just one enforced change from the side which beat England on Thursday night as Lakewood midfielder Evelyn Daly was ruled out with a knee injury and she was replaced by Niamh Prior who slotted in at left back with Courtney Higgins moving into midfield alongside Roma McLaughlin and Saoirse Noonan.
From the outset it was evident the Irish were brimming with confidence and, with the magnificent McLaughlin pulling the strings in midfield, they began brightly and took the game to the Dutch from the very beginning. Chances were scarce until the 21th minute when Saoirse Noonan blasted over after a corner fell to her on the edge of the box. Then Eleanor Ryan Doyle weaved her way through from the right but was denied by a superb one-handed save from Dutch keeper Lize Kop.
The Dutch then went close at the other end through Kalma, twice, van der Vorst and Van der Plas as the sides went in level at half-time. The start of the second half saw the Dutch come more into the game but they struggled to find a way through the Irish back four in which central defenders Jamie Finn and Chloe Maloney (Connolly Celtic) were outstanding and, even when they did, they found goalkeeper Amanda McQuillan was always in the right place. They had one great chance when Kalma found herself one-on-one with the Raheny United goalkeeper but she shot weakly at McQuillan.
The Dutch were reduced to ten players when captain Engelina van der Plas was sent off after picking up a second yellow card in the 68th minute, six minutes after her first, and Ireland really tried to make their numerical advantage count over the final 12 minutes of the 80 minute game.
A great turn and shot by Saoirse Noonan from the edge of the box was saved by Kop at full stretch and she then produced a spectacular finger-tip save to turn over a dipping shot from McLaughlin as Ireland piled on the pressure. In injury time, Sarah McKevitt’s inswinging corner kick evaded everybody as it crossed the six-yard box and curled agonisingly past the far post when the slightest touch would have turned it home.
“That was another tremendous performance by the girls. The Netherlands are another great football nation and I thought we outplayed them, in particular in the second half. Again, the spirit of this team was there for everybody to see and we have that in abundance. We try to get the best out of them and they really want to deliver and they really want to get to Iceland. We really feel we can finish off the job on Tuesday,” said Connell.
Republic of Ireland: Amanda McQuillan; Lauryn O’Callaghan, Jamie Finn (C), Chloe Maloney, Niamh Prior; Saoirse Noonan, Roma McLaughlin, Courtney Higgins; Aislinn Meaney (Lifford FC), Eleanor Ryan Doyle, Sarah McKevitt. Subs; Dearbhaile Beirne for Meaney (60). Lucy McCarton for Ryan Doyle (80 +1).
Netherlands: Kop, de Sanders, Ypema, Nouwen, van de Heuwel (ten Westeneind 80 +2), van der Plas (C), Kalma, de Beer (Noordam 17), Altelaar, van Velzen (Broesterhuizen 78).
Referee: Kulmala Ifeoma (Finland)
FIXTURES & RESULTS
UEFA Women’s U17 Championships Elite round Group 2
Thursday, April 9
Netherlands 5-1 Hungary, St Colman’s Park, Cobh
England 0-2 Republic of Ireland, Turner’s Cross, Cork
Saturday, April 11
Republic of Ireland 0 Netherlands 0, Turner’s Cross, Cork.
England v Hungary, St Colman’s Park, Cobh (6.00pm)
Tuesday, April 14
Netherlands v England, St Colman’s Park, Cobh (12.00pm)
Hungary v Republic of Ireland, Turner’s Cross, Cork (12.00pm)