Republic of Ireland WNT discover opponents for World Cup qualifiers

By Daire Walsh

Sweden, Finland, Slovakia and Georgia will stand in the way of the Republic of Ireland women’s national team and their quest to reach the 2023 FIFA World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand.

The above quartet were named alongside Vera Pauw’s side in Group A of the European qualification phase for the global tournament in the southern hemisphere.

Ireland V Denmark 07 1

Tallaght's Katie McCabe

 

While fixtures are yet to be finalised, Ireland's first game of the group will take place at some stage between September 13th and 21st.

It is then set to conclude just under 12 months later, before a UEFA play-off series commences in early October 2022. Originally due to kick-start in the direct aftermath of the European Championships, games will now be held either side of those finals - which have been delayed until next year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Ireland won’t be competing in Euro 2022, their forthcoming opponents Sweden and Finland will be. Both nations qualified automatically after topping their respective groups with unbeaten records.

Slovakia achieved a third-place finish in Sweden’s group, whilst Georgia suffered 10 straight defeats in their section of the qualifiers.

Sweden and Finland will naturally be favourites to claim the top-two spots, but Ireland have made steady progress under the stewardship of Pauw. Kilnamanagh’s Katie McCabe is captain of the side and recently reached a landmark 50th cap for her country.

Lucan native Niamh Farrelly will be hoping to feature in the Ireland squad when the competitive action gets underway, having recently moved to Glasgow City from Women’s National League outfit Peamount United.

A number of her former team-mates at the latter are also part of the international set-up, such as Aine O’Gorman and Claire Walsh.

Another Peamount star, Stephanie Roche, was named in the preliminary squad for their recent friendly encounters with Denmark and Belgium only to eventually miss out on the final selection.

She will aim to keep herself in contention with strong performances on the domestic front.

There are a number of other players who previously lined out for the Newcastle club that are likely to have big roles in Ireland’s bid for a maiden appearance at an international finals tournament.

These include Louise Quinn, the influential Denise O’Sullivan, Amber Barrett and Heather Payne.

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