Crunch week looms for Ireland’s play-off hopes – The Irish Times

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Crunch week looms for Ireland’s play-off hopes – The Irish Times #Crunch #week #looms #Irelands #playoff #hopes #Irish #Times Welcome to TmZ Blog, here is the new story we have for you today:

Another big week for international football. This time Vera Pauw’s women face into another fixture of significant magnitude. Victory in Monday’s away clash with Georgia will relieve Ireland of their game in hand on Finland and should move them up to second place in the group on 11 points.

That will leave them one point clear of the Finns, who must travel to Dublin for September’s showdown, which will likely decide which country nails down the play-off spot as Sweden top the group.

With temperatures expected to be in the low 30′s in Georgia, Pauw has brought an extended squad to Turkey for a training camp. It’s a challenging date in the international calendar because it sits at the end of June, owing to the fact that this game was originally postponed from earlier in the campaign due to Covid restrictions.

While US and Ireland-based players are “in season”, most of Pauw’s squad are England based and they have been out of season since May 1st. Some players will not have kicked a ball in six weeks ahead of reporting into camp so that makes the training sessions and planning so important.

Some players need a mini pre-season and others need to be tapered into the game. That’s two groups of players in the same sessions with very different training needs and it has to be managed really well to ensure that no injuries are picked up, but also that players have the match fitness going into the game.

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As part of the training camp, Ireland played a friendly match against the Philippines last Sunday where Pauw was able to give much-needed game time to a number of players. It was a sturdy test for the Irish team against a side that has already qualified for next year’s women’s world cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The game saw Pauw give a debut to midfielder Lily Agg who scored the game’s winning goal in an impressive performance. “Lily was in my squad when I managed London City Lionesses and pointed out her Irish heritage after Hayley Nolan and Ally Murphy were called up. I know Lily’s debut was a source of great pride for her mam, Ruth, and her grandad so I was delighted to see her get the green jersey on,” said Pauw.

“The fact she capped it with a goal and a player of the match award was a great reward for what she has put in to get to this stage.”

Injury issues last season delayed her international debut but she has shown great resilience and commitment to get to this point and is a player who will add a new dimension to the midfield options available to Pauw.

The game also saw a senior debut for Shelbourne teenager Jessie Stapleton. At just 17, Stapleton is a really high potential player and it was great to see her take this next step in what promises to be an exciting career in the green jersey.

Pauw also recalled Stephanie Roche who has shown excellent form so far this season with Peamount United in the Women’s National League. It’s Roche’s first call-up since November 2019, an away game against Greece, and she returns to the squad which is missing forward players Leanne Kiernan, Rianna Jarrett and Kyra Carusa due to injury.

For Ireland though, this is a straightforward task. Get in, get the win and get out with a clean bill of health. It’s a game they are expected to win particularly after seeing off the same opposition, in Tallaght, on a record-breaking scoreline of 11-0 last November.

Georgia were somewhat depleted that day as they had some Covid issues coming into the game and even though they will be stronger this time round, it should still be a game that Ireland can win with a degree of comfort.

Ireland’s opponents have lost all six games in the group so far, have scored no goals and conceded 41 so this should be a routine win for the Irish team. Once they secure the three points and move above Finland into second place, then the group moves into the business stage and sets up the final two crucial games in the group.

There are bigger days ahead for this team and there should be no surprises in Tbilisi on Monday evening.

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