The Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team drew 1-1 with Hungary in their opening game at the Istria Cup in Croatia.
Hungary took the lead against the run of the play when Fanni Vago converted a penalty awarded for handball but Ruesha Littlejohn blasted home a brilliant 72nd minute equaliser from the edge of the box to earn a point for Ireland.
However, a point was a lot less then Ireland deserved after dominating the game from start to finish and creating the bulk of the chances on a soft and bumpy pitch. Manager Sue Ronan was delighted with the performance but frustrated her side didn’t take all three points.
“It’s disappointing not to have won after such a great performance. The pitch was very bumpy and that certainly didn’t help us but we worked very hard from the beginning and on another day might have scored three or four. We showed great character in how we responded to their goal and there are plenty of positives for us to build on,” said Ronan.
Ronan handed Raheny United winger Katie McCabe her senior debut and the 19-year-old made an immediate impact when she picked out Julie Ann Russell at the back post but the UCD Waves player headed wide.
Russell then set up Denise O’Sullivan who brought out the best in the Hungarian keeper with a snap shot from six yards before McCabe was denied a debut goal when her goalbound shot was deflected past the post with the keeper stranded.
Littlejohn and Russell both went close before half-time but the sides went in level at half-time and, after the break, it was Ireland who continued to dominate. However they were rocked on 57 minutes when the Croatian referee adjudged that Lousie Quinn had handled the ball on the edge of the box and awarded a penalty which Fanni Vago dispatched with a low drive past Emma Byrne.
The Irish continued to press forward and the introduction of another debutant, Sarah Rowe, eventually sparked the breakthough. Within minutes of her introduction, Rowe headed the ball into the path of Ruesha Littlejohn who found the net with a spectacular drive from outside the box.
Back on level terms, the Irish went in search of a winner and had chances. A brilliant ball from Littlejohn put McCabe through one on one with the keeper but she shot wide. Then Littlejohn chipped the keeper only to see the ball bounce the wrong side of the post before hitting a snap shot wide after Niamh Fahey had caused a lot of problems for the Hungarian defence.
Ireland now play Slovakia in their next game on Friday.
Republic of Ireland:Emma Byrne (Arsenal): Aine O'Gorman (UCD Waves), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion); Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC), Denise O'Sullivan (Glasgow City): Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Katie McCabe (Raheny United). Subs: Fiona O'Sullivan (Notts County) for Denise O’Sullivan (55 mins), Sarah Rowe (Raheny United) for Russell (69 mins). Unused Subs: Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Lauren Dwyer (Raheny United), Emma Beckett (Amazon Grimstad), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves), Megan Connolly (College Corinthians), Stephanie Roche (Houston Dash).
Hungary: Biro, Csiszar, Gal, Hummel-Smuczer (Szuh 75), Toth, Szeiti, Vago, J Zsanett (Bernadett 55), Mosdoczi, Zeller, Sipos (K Zsanett 68).
Referee: Ivana Martincic (Croatia).