O’Sullivan goal enough to get Ireland into second round of World Cup play-offs
The Republic of Ireland women’s national team secured their progression to the second round of the FIFA World Cup play-offs with a 1-0 Group A qualification win over Slovakia at NTC Senec on Tuesday evening.
Already assured of a spot in the next phase of qualifying following their success over Finland in Tallaght last week, this latest result means Ireland have bypassed the opening round of the play-offs as one of the three best group stage runners-up.
For this game, Kilnamanagh native Katie McCabe was once again named as captain of an Irish side that also featured three ex-Peamount United players in Louise Quinn, Denise O’Sullivan and Heather Payne.
There was another triumvirate of former Peas stars on the bench in Chloe Mustaki, Amber Barrett and Hayley Nolan in addition to international centurion Aine O’Gorman – the current captain of the Newcastle club.
The Girls In Green played out a 1-1 draw with the Slovaks in Tallaght last November and there was little to separate the sides during the opening stages of their latest meeting. McCabe had a shot on goal off her less favoured right foot just past the first-quarter mark, but opposition netminder Mária Korenčiová was equal to the Arsenal woman’s effort.
Diane Caldwell also fired wide off a Quinn knock down from a McCabe corner, before the visitors finally hit the front on 37 minutes. Heather Payne’s pull-back into the box wasn’t dealt with by the Slovak defence and O’Sullivan – who initially released Payne down the right – hammered home to the bottom left-hand corner.
This was enough to give Ireland a slender lead at the interval and leave them within sight of their fifth win in the group. Although McCabe was perilously close to doubling their advantage on the hour, chances were proving few and far between in an overly cagey affair.
Group winners Sweden had come away with a single goal victory on their visit to Senec and despite being second from bottom in the table, Slovakia made it clear that they’re no pushovers. The recalled Claire O’Riordan had a good opportunity to grab a second on 73 minutes, but her strike was cleared off the line by Patrícia Fischerová.
Though a second goal ultimately eluded them, a lack of a cutting edge in attack from the Slovakians meant the Republic weren’t unduly troubled in the closing moments of the contest.