The Republic of Ireland have finished in eighth place at the Cyprus Cup after losing this afternoon's play-off for seventh and eighth place with Finland in Paralimni.
The Finns, who are ranked 19th in the world and are currently preparing for their third successive appearance at the European Championship Finals, scored the only goal of the game through Sanna Talonen after 20 minutes
Today's defeat was Ireland's first in the tournament after they won Group C with wins over Northern Ireland (5-1) and South Africa (2-0) and a draw with world No.16 South Korea (0-0).
Sue Ronan's team had come into the tournament ranked 10th of the 12 participating countries so an eighth place finish represents an excellent performance from an inexperienced squad that included 16 home-based players, six of whom were uncapped prior to the commencement of the tournament. A further measure of the accomplishment is that world No.11 Italy and No.16 South Korea finished behind the Irish, who have a world ranking of 34, in ninth and tenth place respectively.
Ronan made just one change from the eleven which started Monday's game against South Korea, bringing in Raheny United's Ciara Grant for Denise O'Sullivan of Cork Women's FC. Under a clear blue sky on a very hot afternoon, Ireland started slowly and quickly found themselves on the back foot as Finland dictated the first quarter during which they got the game's only goal.
That came after 20 minutes when Ireland lost possession in midfield and the ball was quickly played over the top to Sanna Talonen who beat the offside trap and shot past the advancing Emma Byrne.
Shortly afterwards the Finns hit the post but just when it looked as though the Irish were going to capitulate they finally got into the game and began to produce the sort of form which has been the hallmark of their performances in Cyprus over the past week.
Sara Lawlor twice went close with headers and then Ruesha Littlejohn had a header from an Aine O'Gorman cross saved by the Finnish keeper as the Irish ended the half strongly although Byrne had to be at her best to keep out an effort from Susanna Lehtinen just before the break.
Ronan used five subs in the second half to try and fresh things up as fatigue and the heat took its toll and saw her side dominate the game until the end without managing to find the equaliser they probably deserved for the effort they put in.
The best chance of an equaliser came after 53 minutes when neat inter-play involving Seana Cooke, Littlejohn and Lawlor ended up with Aine O'Gorman teeing up Denise O'Sullivan but the U19 international shot wide.
Finland occasionally created chances and Byrne produced another excellent save in the 67th minute from Jaana Lvytikainen and then heaved a sigh of relief when Heidi Kivela sent the rebound over her crossbar while the Irish skipper got her angles right in the 82nd minutes as Marianna Tolvanen shot wide.
Ireland finished the game camped in the Finland half but they just couldn't break down a resolute Finnish defence and had to settle for a final tournament position of eighth.
"I've mixed feelings," said manager Sue Ronan after the game. "I felt we gave them too much respect early on in the game and paid the price because that's when we conceded the goal. Once we got into the game we did really well, took the game to them and were probably a little bit unlucky not to get something out it."
The Irish squad will head home from Cyprus tomorrow and Ronan admits she will look back on the past week with a lot of satisfaction.
"Overall, it's been a good week. We've won two games, drawn with the No.16 ranked team in the world, lost by one goal to the No.19 ranked team and finished ahead of the No.11 and No.16 teams in the final tournament placings. We came with an inexperienced squad but they've done really well and I've got answers to a lot of questions I would have had coming out, so it's been an invaluable exercise as well as giving the squad a badly needed confidence boost as we prepare for the World Cup qualifiers in September."
The team's next game will be Tuesday, June 18, against Austria at Tallaght Stadium
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), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad FK), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United).
Subs: Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC) for Grant (46), Seana Cooke (Raheny United) for Campbell (46), Deirdre Doherty (IT Sligo) for Lawlor (67), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United) on for Smyth (73), Grace Murray (Peamount United) for O'Gorman (80 mins), Rachel Graham (Raheny United) on Littlejohn (83).
Cyprus Women's Cup Details
Group C Results
Republic of Ireland 5 Northern Ireland 1
South Korea 2 South Africa 0
South Africa 0 Republic of Ireland 1
Northern Ireland 0 South Korea 3
South Africa 2 Northern Ireland 1
South Korea 0 Republic of Ireland 0
Group C Table
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
Seventh/Eighth Place Play-Off
Republic of Ireland 0 Finland 1