Start of new WNL season will be keenly watched by Ronan

Start of new WNL season will be keenly watched by Ronan

Republic of Ireland Women's National Team manager Sue Ronan will be keenly watching the opening weeks of the new Bus Éireann Women's National League season.
19th Aug 2013

Republic of Ireland Women's National Team manager Sue Ronan will be keenly watching the opening weeks of the new Bus Éireann Women's National League season.

The 2013-14 season, which will be the National League's third campaign, kicks off on Sunday, August 26, and comes just a few weeks before Ireland commences the qualifying campaign for the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada.

Ireland has been drawn in Group 1 along with newly crowned European champions Germany, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia and will open the campaign on Sunday, September 22, against Slovakia in Dublin before travelling to face Croatia on Thursday, September 26 in Sinji.

Ronan will name her first squad in early September and the opening weeks of the new Bus Éireann Women's National League season offers players a last chance to play their way into contention for the opening qualifiers.

"The importance of the National League to our international teams cannot be understated and the first few weeks of the new campaign will be important in terms of sharpening the players ahead of what will be two very vital World Cup fixtures in September," said Ronan.

"Both Slovakia and Croatia are seeded below us and while they were undoubtedly among the strongest seeds in their respective pots at the draw, we know we have to beat them both, as well as Slovenia, if we are to have any chance of taking second place in the group."

Ireland will have played the three teams seeded below them by the time Germany roll into town next April and, having watched them recently capture their six successive European title in Sweden, Ronan knows it's going to be a massive task to stop them.

"I saw them in the final and the semi-final in Sweden and, to be honest, the Swedes should have beaten them in the semi-final. But the Germans are a very strong side and, between qualifiers and finals, they have only lost one game in the European Championships since 1993. That's a phenomenal record and an indication of what we are going to be up against."

Russia were also at Euro '13 but two draws against England and Spain and a 3-1 defeat to France meant they failed to get out of their group although they did finish ahead of the English who were expected to perform well after a good showing at the 2012 Olympics.

"We had their games watched and we have DVDs of them so we know what to expect from the Russians. On their day they can be as good as any of the top teams but you literally don't know which Russia will turn up. My first game in charge of the senior team was against Russia in the last World Cup campaign and we drew 1-1 with them in Wexford so hopefully that's a good omen."

The reason Ronan didn't get to see Russia in the flesh at the Euros was because she was actually in Russia herself managing the Ireland team at the World University Games in Kazan where they finished sixth. The squad included nine senior internationals and gave Ronan a good insight into some of those who are in contention for places this September.

"It was a very good experience for all the squad and some of them, like Dora Gorman, Sara Lawlor, Seana Cooke, Sophie Perry, Ciara Grant, Karen Duggan and Siobhan Killeen played really well."

Ronan was also pleased with the 2-2 draw against Austria on June 18 in Tallaght and in particular with the large crowd which turned out for the game.

"They were great. They were noisy and passionate and created a great atmosphere. We will need that type of support throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign."