South Korea 0 Republic of Ireland 0
International debut for Rachel Graham and Deirdre Doherty
The Republic of Ireland Senior Women's Team have drawn 0-0 with South Korea at the Cyprus Cup in Parlini to win Group C on goal difference from a team ranked 18 places higher in the FIFA World Rankings.
Ireland now face Finland on Wednesday in the play-off for seventh and eighth position, a remarkable achievement considering that Sue Ronan's side are ranked 10th out of the 12 teams taking part in this invitational tournament.
"I am absolutely delighted for the girls," said Ronan after watching her side produce a gritty performance to earn the point they needed to top the group following a 5-1 win over Northern Ireland and a 2-0 win over South Africa who took part in last summer's London Olympics.
"They really worked hard against a very good team who fielded their strongest possible line-up against us. Our defensive shape was excellent throughout and while it took us a while to get up to the pace of the game, once we did we really started to trouble them on the counter-attack and probably created the best chances.
"To win the group is a tremendous achievement considering that we came with an inexperienced squad and were more focused on developing the group of players we had. They have grown in confidence from the first game and we even managed to give Deirdre Doherty and Rachel Graham their senior debuts today as well," said Ronan whose side are now in unbeaten in three consecutive games, their best run of form for five years.
With all 22 players in the squad fit for action, Ronan went with her strongest possible line-up, the same eleven that begun last Wednesday's game against Northern Ireland and it proved to be as a wise choice against a South Korea side that was very good technically and kept the Irish defence on their toes with the depth of their movement. Skipper Emma Byrne had to make too fine saves in the first-half to keep Ireland on level terms.
But once Ireland got the grips with the Koreans they began to impose themselves on the game with the speed of Sara Lawlor a constant threat on the counter-attack while they also created half-chances for Lousie Quinn, Yvonne Tracy and Denise O'Sullivan from set-pieces.
Lawlor had a great opportunity to put Ireland ahead on the stroke of half-time when dispossessed the Korean centre-back and found herself one on one with the Korean keeper Kim Jurmi but her shot was blocked. Lawlor regained possession from the rebound and fed Aine O'Gorman whose cross was blocked but the rebound fell invitingly for Ruesha Littlejohn on the volley and her screamer was somehow tipped away for a corner by Jurmi.
After the break, the Irish continued to carve out the better opportunities with Diane Caldwell shooting inches wide in the 56th minute and Jurmi then smothering the ball on her goal-line after she had dropped O'Gorman's corner and started a goalmouth scramble.
Jurmi then produced another great save to deny 25-yard strike from Littlejohn and her defenders began to pick up yellow cards as they began using any means to curb the Irish threat on the counter-attack.
Ireland found themselves on the back foot for the final ten minutes as the Koreans went in search of the victory they need to take the group and Byrne made great saves for Ji Soyun and Kim Sangeun while watching with relief a curling shot from Soyun drift past her post.
Deirdre Doherty from IT Sligo and Rachel Graham from Raheny United were both introduced as second-half substitutes to make their senior international debuts bringing to four the number of new caps awarded this week.
Ireland now meet Finland on Wednesday at 10am (Irish time) in the play-off for seventh and eighth. The Finns are ranked 19th in the world and would represent another excellent scalp for an Irish team that has grown in confidence as the week in Cyprus has progressed.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (c) (Arsenal), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United DFF), Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Megan Campbell (Raheny United), Meabh de Burca (Eskilstuna United DFF), Diane Caldwell (Alvadsnes FC), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad FK), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United).
Subs: Ciara Grant (Raheny United) for O'Sullivan (46), Deirdre Doherty (IT Sligo) for Lawlor (66), Rachel Graham (Raheny United) for Smyth (73), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United) for Littlejohn (90).
Cyprus Women's Cup Group C
Republic of Ireland 5 Northern Ireland 1
South Korea 2 South Africa 0
South PAfrica 0 Republic of Ireland 1
Northern Ireland 0 South Korea 3
South Africa 2 Northern Ireland 1
South Korea 0 Republic of Ireland 0
P W D L F A PTS
Republic of Ireland 3 2 1 0 6 1 7
South Korea 3 2 1 0 5 0 7
South Africa 3 1 0 2 2 4 3
Northern Ireland 3 0 0 3 2 10 0