Early birthday present for Connolly
Connolly, who has scored 13 goals in 23 competitive games at U17 and U19 international level, turns 18 on March 7 and will celebrate it in Croatia after receiving her first call-up to the senior squad. She is one of six uncapped players in the squad and will be joined three other members of last year’s U19 team which reached the semi-finals of the European Championships in Norway - Sarah Rowe, Katie McCabe and Lauren Dwyer.
“The four of them have been very impressive at underage international level and have also done well for their clubs this season. We had Katie and Lauren at the Winter Training Camp in La Manga and they didn’t look out of place so I feel they are all ready to step up and get some more experience,” said Ronan.
The other uncapped players are Wexford Youths’ Carol Breen and English-based Emma Beckett who is currently unattached. Both were in the squad that took part in the Winter Training Camp in La Manga last month and played in the training game against Norway on January 15. Rianna Jarrett, who was also on the trip to La Manga, sustained an ACL injury in the Norway game and underwent surgery last Friday.
“It was the one negative aspect of the La Manga trip that Rianna sustained such a serious injury because she was absolutely flying and I was looking forward to bringing her to Croatia. It is the second time she has sustained this type of injury and I have no doubt she will come back even stronger. She is a quality striker and hopefully she won’t been out for too long,” said Ronan who was also unable to select Dora Gorman and Karen Duggan of UCD Waves and Siobhan Killeen of Raheny United due to a mixture of injury and work commitments.
The squad includes FIFA Puskas Award runner-up Stephanie Roche, who has just signed for American side Houston Dash, and Denise O’Sullivan who was the Players’ Player of the Year in Scotland in 2014 and is currently preparing for the last eight of the UEFA Women’s Champions League with Glasgow City.
Ireland have been drawn in Group A along with Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. Group B has Poland, Romania, Croatia and Northern Ireland while Group C features Wales, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina and a B team from France. Ireland will start their Istria Cup campaign against Hungary on March 4 before facing Slovakia on March 6 and Austria on March 9. The positional play-off games are scheduled for March 11.
“The March tournaments are always helpful in terms of preparing for the rest of the year and we certainly found that last year after the Cyprus Cup. We are currently focused on the start of the European Championship qualifying campaign in September so we will be trying out a few things and we also need to integrate the new players in the squad,” said Ronan.
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team Squad
Goalkeepers: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United).
Defenders: Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC), Lauren Dwyer (Raheny United), Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Aine O'Gorman (UCD Waves), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United).
Midfielders: Emma Beckett (Unattached), Carol Breen (Wexford Youths Women’s AFC), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves), Denise O'Sullivan (Glasgow City), Sarah Rowe (Raheny United), Julie Ann Russell (UCD Waves).
Forwards: Megan Connolly (College Corinthians), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Katie McCabe (Raheny United), Fiona O'Sullivan (Notts County), Stephanie Roche (Houston Dash).