(Credit: Darragh Connolly)
The Itzadion Ramat Gan is the venue for Republic of Ireland’s final UEFA Women’s Euro 2013 Group 4 Qualifier away to the weakest team in the five-team section, Israel this Wednesday evening (kick-off 5pm Irish time).
The sides last met in the group on October 22, 2011 at Tallaght Stadium and Ireland won the encounter 2-0.
Campaign top scorer with four goals, Cork Women’s FC’s Denise O’Sullivan gave Ireland a 74th minute lead and captain Ciara Grant scored Sue Ronan’s side’s second on 87 minutes.
However, that is unfortunately the last match Ireland have won in the section.
Losses to Scotland (twice) and Wales and most recently a four-goal reverse to France have followed rendering this clash meaningless in terms of qualification but greatly important for those seeking to acquire further senior international experience.
Neither O’Sullivan nor Peamount United’s Stephanie Roche featured in Guingamp last Saturday as Ireland were defeated 4-0 by group winners France but both started the corresponding fixture against Israel and Ronan is expected to give those two game-time this evening.
To illustrate Ireland’s dominance of the meeting at Tallaght Stadium Ronan’s team engineered 13 attempts at Merav Shamir’s goal, eight of which were on target whereas the visitors orchestrated two shots, one on and one off target and Ireland forced five corners to Israel’s zero.
Furthermore, Israel have performed so poorly in this qualification campaign that they have failed to earn a single point in their seven previous outings, scored once – in a 6-1 home defeat to Scotland – and have conceded a whopping 33 times.
Therefore, Ireland are understandably expected to win this and possibly on the bridle, as was highlighted by the aforementioned O’Sullivan prior to the France match.
“We would be very confident of beating Israel on Wednesday and we’ll probably do so by a couple of goals as well hopefully,” she said.
There is a theory being bandied about that Ronan will also give others that play in the Bus Éireann FAI Women’s National League, such as Peamount duo Julie-Ann Russell and Sara Lawlor and Raheny United’s Rebecca Creagh, further international experience, especially if Ireland are piling on the pressure in the second half.
However, factoring in that Ronan is aware of what the more senior players within the set-up can offer it might be a wiser call to start O’Sullivan, Roche, Russell and Creagh in various attacking positions with a view to looking to the future and further qualification campaigns.
These performers have been nothing short of outstanding in the domestic national league and have plenty to offer Ronan’s team.
It is possible however that there will be a shortage of confidence within the squad given they have failed to score in their last three matches and lost four games in a row.
Yet this is an ideal opportunity to make up for a severe dip in form.
Ending this ill-fated campaign on the highest note possible with a resounding victory is imperative.
Peter McNamara is a freelance sports journalist that works predominately for the Evening Echo in Cork covering mostly soccer and GAA at all levels. Peter writes extensively on the topics of Gaelic football and hurling for the newspaper. He is the former sports editor of local radio station 93.1 Life FM where he produced and co-presented the live Sporting Life show every Monday and Friday which stills run today. As well as that, Peter has worked as a sub-editor for the Evening Echo and has been working in the media industry for over four years now. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, on facebook or follow him on Twitter @petermcnemo07