Ireland women ready for vital qualifier in Scotland
The Republic of Ireland senior women's team Head Coach Sue Ronan has a fully fit squad to choose from for Thursday's 2013 UEFA Championship Group 4 qualifier against Scotland at Tynecastle in Edinburgh (kick off 7pm).
The snowy conditions in Scotland disrupted the squad's training plans on Tuesday but today's planned session at the match stadium went ahead as scheduled.
Ronan was pleased to report no injury concerns amongst her 19-player squad on the eve of this pivotal encounter against the Scots.
As expected, World Cup semi-finalists France have taken the initiative in the pursuit of top spot and the one automatic berth into the Sweden-hosted finals.
Wins against Wales and Israel from their opening three qualifiers has placed Ireland in the play-off spot behind the French. Scotland and Wales are both just two points off the Irish.
It all points to a tense clash in Edinburgh and Ronan knows her team are in for a busy evening.
"We hold a slight advantage in the hunt for second place and Scotland, no doubt, will look to win this one," she said.
"I was at their game in France on Saturday and they should have been ahead before conceding two second half goals in a two-nil defeat.
"However, our players have looked very sharp in training this week and there's a determination within the group to get a result and maintain the good start they've made to the qualifying campaign.
"Our home-based players have benefited from the improved standards of the Bus Éireann Women's National League, while our four Arsenal players have been involved in their progress to the semi-final of the UEFA Champions League."
One of those Gunners' players is Ireland captain Ciara Grant. She celebrates a major milestone as the fixture will mark her 100th senior cap, the first time an Irish women's player has hit a century of appearances.
It's a big honour for Grant, though she admits the outcome of the game is her priority.
"I've loved every minute of my international career since making my debut in 1995 against the Faroe Islands and to become the first player to reach 100 caps makes me very proud," said the Waterford native.
"All I've focused on recently is the upcoming game itself against Scotland, so I'll probably be able to enjoy it more when we're at home next, which is in June against Wales."
Ronan paid tribute to Grant's continued contribution to the Republic of Ireland squad.
"Ciara has been a great servant over her 17 years in the team and is someone who is a real role model for other players," she said.
"This game will be a historic occasion and we're all very proud of her achievement."
Republic of Ireland Women's squad:
Emma Byrne Arsenal FC
Eve Badana Drexel College
Yvonne Tracy Arsenal FC
Louise Quinn Peamount United FC
Megan Campbell Raheny United FC
Sophie Perry Chelsea FC
MT McDonnell Chicago Red Stars FC
Grace Murray Peamount United FC
Niamh Fahey Arsenal FC
Ciara Grant Arsenal FC
Marie Curtin Cork Women's FC
Julie Ann Russell Doncaster Belles FC
Aine O'Gorman Doncaster Belles FC
Fiona O'Sullivan Soyaux ASJ
Ruesha Littlejohn Liverpool FC
Denise O'Sullivan Cork Women's FC
Shannon Smyth Amazon Grimstad FK
Michele O'Brien Chicago Red Eleven FC
Diane Caldwell Avaldsnes FC.