The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team lost narrowly to World Cup Finalists Spain this evening in an international friendly at the Mareo Stadium, Asturias.
Spain opened the scoring in the 47th minute through Jenni Hormoso and Ireland thought they had equalised in the 83rd minute when Louise Quinn headed home from a corner but the referee disallowed the effort.
While Ireland will feel that they deserved at least a draw they will take a lot of confidence from the game, especially their second half performance when they showed great character after going a goal down and pressed the Spanish to the very end.
Manager Sue Ronan fielded a strong side from the start but was unable to include teenage winger Katie McCabe who hadn’t recovered in time from an injury sustained while playing for Raheny United in a Continental Tyres Women’s National League game on Sunday.
Ireland struggled in the opening 45 minutes to get to grips with the short-passing Spaniards and when they did win the ball back they struggled to retain possession. The Spanish were very dangerous on the break and twice in the first 12 minutes Sonia Bermudez went close, her second effort being cleared off the line by Sophie Perry.
Emma Byrne was the busier of the two goalkeepers but at the other end Louise Quinn and Denise O’Sullivan both headed wide while Megan Campbell’s free-kick produced an excellent stop from the Spanish keeper.
Having managed to keep the game scoreless to half-time, Ireland were dealt a body blow two minutes after the restart when Byrne parried a Spanish free-kick and Hormoso reacted quickest inside the box to fire the home side into the lead.
But, if the Spanish crowd expected the floodgates to open at this stage they were seriously mistaken as Ireland responded by taking a firm grip of the game with the introduction of Siobhan Killeen as a half-time substitute bringing pace and width to the attack.
Julie Ann Russell had a snap shot charged down after 65 minutes and then Ruesha Littlejohn almost took full advantage of some indecision in the Spanish defence but the home keeper Aihnoa Tirapu made a last ditch block to keep out her shot.
Ireland finally got the ball in the Spanish net on 83 minutes when Quinn rose highest to power home a corner from Killeen but the referee disallowed the effort for a foul on a defender, a decision that was disputed by the visitors.
It would have given Ireland a deserved equaliser but Ronan took enough positives from what will be her last time to have the full squad together prior to the start of the European Championship campaign in September.
“We were poor in the first half and it took us a long time to get into the game but we spoke about it at half time and we were much better in the second half. They even changed their formation to try and cope with us,” said Ronan. “It was a step-up in the quality of opponent we have faced so far this year but we did well against a team who will be among the top seeds in the Euro 2017 draw later this month. I thought Louise Quinn scored a good goal and we certainly would have deserved it based on our second half performance.”
Ireland: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Sophie Perry (Millwall); Aine O'Gorman (UCD Waves), Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Denise O'Sullivan (Glasgow City); Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Fiona O'Sullivan (Notts County), Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves). Subs: Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United) for F O'Sullivan (46), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women's AFC) for Russell (65).
Unused Subs: Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United), Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC), Emma Beckett (Amazon Grimstad), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves).