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24th Feb 2024

“Oh, that was close!” – Marginal call denies Ireland famous win over Italy




Ireland drew with Italy 0-0 at Viola Park, as a marginal call denied them a wonder-goal. Despite the final scoreline, there was plenty going on in Florence and it was an impressive performance from Eileen Glesson’s side.

The opening 45 for the Girls in Green, writes Fiona Shields, were very positive, considering this Italian side are ranked 10 places above them in the Fifa Women’s world rankings.

With Ireland being in control for the first 15 minutes of the match, things were looking promising. Looking composed on the ball, the first shot of the match came from Ireland captain Katie McCabe, which was hit straight at the Italy goalkeeper.

This was followed, soon after, with another decent chance for Ireland, Heather Payne putting in a great thru-ball to Kyra Carusa, who had her strike tipped wide by the Italian ‘keeper.

It was looking very optimistic for Eileen Glesson’s side, whose high press was working out in their favour. This being paired with the side’s high intensity and high tempo made it a great watch.

Italy settled into the game after about 20 minutes and the experienced Irish back-line had to be on their toes. The Irish defence have become accustomed to playing three at the back, so the switch to four came as a surprise to many. It did not seem to hold Ireland back against and Italy side that were often reduced to long-range efforts on Courtney Brosnan, who commanded her area well.

The Irish high-press was forcing Italian errors. Gleeson’s side were impressive in their build-up play, yet that final pass was missing. Italy had the final rasp at goal before the break but Ireland had acquitted themselves well. Ruesha Littlejohn was replaced by Lucy Quinn after picking a knock in the first half.

Republic of Ireland players, back row, from left, Niamh Fahey, Jessie Stapleton, Courtney Brosnan, Caitlin Hayes, Megan Connolly and Ruesha Littlejohn, front row, from left, Katie McCabe, Jessica Ziu, Izzy Atkinson, Heather Payne and Kyra Carusa. (Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile)

Ireland denied end-to-end goal by offside call

One of the nicest moments of the night arrived in the second half when Italy captain Sara Gama was subbed off. This was Gama’s last match for Italy – she was retiring with 140 caps. Irish players applauded Gama as she left the pitch, with the Italians lining up to give her a special send-off.

In the 61st minute, Izzy Atkinson and Kyra Carusa made way for Leanne Kiernan and Amber Barrett, who would combine for that crucial offside call.

The game continued to be a very even match, with both teams getting their fair chances to take the lead. Jessie Stapleton’s good shift in midfield ended when was replaced by Lily Agg. Jess Ziu, who had been out of the Ireland squad for 17 months due to an ACL injury, was then replaced by Abbie Larkin.

In the 73rd minute, Lucy Quinn nutmegged an Italian player, giving the ball to Heather Payne who played the ball to Amber Barrett. The Donegal native played a great ball to Leanne Kiernan, who put it in the back of the net. It was unfortunately ruled offside, although it was very fine margins. Had it been allowed, it would have been an all-timer:

“Proud of the girls” – Eileen Gleeson

Italy forward Michela Catena had a late chance to score but her curling effort was just wide of Courtney Brosnan’s goal.

With five additional minutes to be added on, Aofie Mannion made her first appearance after coming back from injury, replacing Heather Payne.

Niamh Fahey was fairly awarded the Player of the Match award after putting in a cool, calm and composed performance from the left centre-back position. As for the manager, Eileen Gleeson summed up her first match as permanent manager., saying:

“I think it was a very solid performance. Proud of the girls.”

Fahey added, “Great to be back, overall a really positive performance.”

With the UEFA Euro Qualifiers looming ever closer, March 5, Kyra Carusa spoke about the step up in ability of the teams Ireland could be facing. “This is going to be the level that we need to meet over the next year and a half,” she said.

With a lot of positives to take out of the night, all attention goes to Tuesday, February 27 in Tallaght Stadium against Wales (Kick off 7:30 Live on RTE 2).

Ireland players ratings

Ireland  (4-4-2)
1 – Courtney Brosnan – 7.5
2 – Jessie Stapleton -7
5 – Niamh Fahey – 9
6 – Megan Connolly – 7
8 – Ruesha Littlejohn 8
11 – Katie McCabe (C) – 8
12 – Caitlin Hayes – 7.5
14 – Heather Payne – 8
18 – Kyra Carusa – 8
21 – Jess Ziu – 7
22 – Izzy Atkinson – 8

4 – Aofie Mannion – 6
9 – Amber Barrett – 7
13 – Lily Agg -7
15 – Lucy Quinn – 7
19 – Abbie Larkin -7
20 – Leanne Kiernan – 7

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