The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team came within three minutes of taking a massive scalp at the Cyprus Cup this afternoon in Paralimni but in the end had to settle for a share of the spoils against New Zealand who are ranked 17 places higher than Ireland in the FIFA World Rankings.
After a scoreless first half, Sue Ronan’s side took the lead in the 64th minute when Peamount United’s Aine O’Gorman rose above the New Zealand defence to head home a cross from half-time substitute Siobhan Killeen who was making her senior debut.
The Irish went within three minutes of securing a famous victory but were caught out in the 87th minute when Hannah Wilkinson rose highest to meet a long ball into the box and headed home the equaliser to save the Kiwis’ blushes.
“It was a great performance and if we had held on it would have been the biggest result in the history of the international women’s team,” said manager Ronan afterwards.
“We played really well and we have definitely taken it on another step from the game against England in La Manga which was a step up from the earlier performance against Holland. What made it even more impressive was that they played their strongest available team from the start which was a real compliment to us,” she added.
“They were a good team and it took us a while to get to grips with their movement but once we did we looked very comfortable. Our goal was very well worked and we did a lot of good things in the build-up. We were very disappointed at the manner in which we conceded the equaliser as it was just a long ball into the box and we should have dealt with it better.”
Both teams enjoyed good spells of possession early on and the best chance of the opening half fell to Ireland when Sophie Perry’s shot was turned around the post by the New Zealand keeper.
Ronan introduced Raheny United’s Killeen for her debut at half-time in place of Julie Ann Russell and the young winger made her mark after 64 minutes when, after good hold-up play by Fiona O’Sullivan, she delivered a pin-point cross which found O’Gorman who had timed her run to perfection and she headed powerfully home from close range.
Diane Caldwell almost added a second when her goalbound shot cannoned off a New Zealand defender and Ireland looked to be heading for a famous victory when, in the 87th minute, a long ball into the box was headed against New Zealand’s Wilkinson by Perry and the rebound looped over Emma Byrne and into the net for the equaliser.
Ireland’s next game will be on Friday against South Korea who also drew 1-1 with Switzerland in the other Group 3 game. They face Switzerland on March 10 and the final game on March 12 will be for their overall finishing position. The opposition won’t be known until the completion of the group stage on March 10.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal) (C); Meabh de Burca (Galway WFC), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Sophie Perry (Millwall); Diane Caldwell (Avaldsness), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City); Aine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Fiona O’Sullivan (SC Frieburg). Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United).
Subs Used: Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United) for Russell, Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad) for Caldwell, Stephanie Roche (Peamount United) for O’Sullivan, Aileen Gilroy (Castlebar Celtic) for O’Gorman.
Subs Unused: Niamh Reid Burke (Raheny United), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic), Dora Gorman (Peamount United), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Rachel Graham (Raheny United).