Iceland 1 - 4 Republic of Ireland
REPORT: WU17s fight back to finish on a high
Dave Bell's side occupied pole position going into the last of three Qualifying Round games but it was never going to be easy to saunter through to the Elite Round as top seeds. It required a huge effort.
This group of girls, however, continue to prove that they have the right combination of courage and skill needed to fight back from difficulties, such as Hlin Elriksdottir's opening goal on 23 minutes.
Carla McManus set them on the way when she netted on 39 minutes with a sweet finish - bringing her tally to five goals in three appearances - while an own goal on 50 minutes gave Ireland the advantage.
Then Megan Mackey popped up with a late brace - firstly a superb volley on 69 minutes and then a neat finish on 75 minutes - to wrap up the three points and a perfect ending to the group.
Credit should go to Bell, and his backroom staff, for applying a sense of professionalism within this talented squad because it is one thing setting high expectations, it quite another delivering them.
They started on a bright note with a 6-0 victory over Faroe Islands and followed it up with a 2-0 win against Belarus, but there are clear signs that there is even more to come from this Ireland team.
Opting to start Rachael Kelly between the posts, Bell ensured that every one of his 18 squad members saw some minutes on the pitch. And Kelly proved her worth with an excellent save late on.
This was a performance that highlighted many of Ireland's strengths and they played some excellent football. But the sweetest thing of all will be the fact that they finished as top seeds.
The next target will be the Elite Round in early 2017. By then, the message will have spread around Europe that this is a team very much to fear in the shake-up for a spot at next summer's finals in Czech Republic.
Iceland: Gudlaugsdottir; Fjolnisdottir (Vilhjalmsdottir 75), Sigurbjomsdottir, Steinarsdottir, Gudnadottir; Ragnarsdottir (Jack 61), Johannsdottir; Eiriksdottir, Jonsdottir, Johannesdottir; Einarsdottir.
Republic of Ireland: Kelly; Doyle, Ruddy, Grier; Mackey, Toland, Casey (Singleton 79); Payne, McEvoy, Carolan (Mannix 72); McManus (Lynagh 80).
Referee: Meliz Ozcigdem (TUR).
Top spot all that matters now for WU17s
The Group 10 leaders must overcome their final opponents of the Qualifying Round in order to progress as top seeds in their pursuit of a place in the UEFA European Championship finals.
Next summer's tournament will be staged in Czech Republic with only seven places up for grabs. However, Dave Bell's squad are only thinking about Turner's Cross on Halloween night and collecting the three points.
According to tricky winger Heather Payne, the celebrations from their victories over Faroe Islands and Belarus have been resigned to history. But they want to add one more fruitful chapter before closing the book on this round.
"We're happy that we have qualified but our focus is on beating Iceland, getting nine points and topping the group. That's all that matters," said Payne.
The Galway girl, who has been setting the Continental Tyres Women's National League alight in her debut season with Peamount United, has excelled in Ireland's two games so far.
Yet, she is quick to acknowledge that there is more work left to do. "Getting top spot or not getting it could be the difference of getting to the finals or not. We have a massive game against Iceland and we are going to treat it as if it is our first game," she said.
The professional attitude of this young team should not surprise anyone who has come across Bell - a vastly experienced coach who has been to two European Championships in the last three years.
Maintaining a steely determination, especially when the expectations rise, is not easy but it is something that has rubbed off on this Ireland squad. Take newcomer Alannah McEvoy as an example.
The Bray native may be a rookie at international level when it comes to minutes played in competitive games, but she has not allowed that to slow her down one bit. In fact, few defenders have been able to keep up with her. And what is clearly firing her up is a sense of pride.
"We are representing our country, so we want to make the most of it and make people proud of us. We also want to qualify for the tournaments for the likes of Heather (Payne) and Tiegan (Ruddy) because this is their last year at this level," said McEvoy.
Take it from a striker who puts team satisfaction before personal glory, this Ireland outfit are not finished yet. They have one big game to go and they are determined to come out on top.
Republic of Ireland Women's Under 17s
Goalkeepers: Erica Turner, Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne Ladies)
Defenders: Aoife Lynagh, Lucia Lobato (Salthill Devon), Lauryn Grier (Kentstown Rovers), Sadhbh Doyle (Galway WFC), Tara Mannix (Cork City WFC), Orla Casey (Wexford Youths), Sophie O'Donoghue (Shelbourne Ladies)
Midfielders: Tiegan Ruddy, Doireann Fahey, Chloe Singleton (Peamount United), Tyler Toland (Maiden City), Megan Mackey (Chelsea Ladies)
Forwards: Heather Payne, Carla McManus (Peamount United), Isibeal Carolan, Alannah McEvoy (Enniskerry)
Monday, October 31: Iceland v Republic of Ireland, Turner's Cross, KO 19:00
Wednesday, October 26: Republic of Ireland 6-0 Faroe Islands, Turner's Cross
Friday, October 28: Republic of Ireland 2-0 Belarus, Turner's Cross
- 12 Aníta Dögg Guðmundsdóttir (G)
- 6 Thórdis Elva Ágústsdóttir
- 9 Eygló Thorsteinsdóttir
- 10 Karólína Vilhjálmsdóttir
- 13 Brynhildur Brá Gunnlaugsdóttir
- 15 Elín Helga Ingadóttir
- 17 Karólína Jack
Republic of Ireland
- Referee Meliz Özçiğdem
- Assistant Referees Belgin Kumru Yılmaz
- UEFA Delegate Isabel Hochstöger
- Assistant Referee Two Emilie Aubry
- Fourth Official Sandra Strub
- Referee Observer Blaženka Logarušić
- Republic of Ireland
Shots on Target
Shots off Target
Republic of Ireland
4Shots on Goal7
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