Ireland without Brighton star for crucial Euro qualifiers, business as usual amid coronavirus fears

IRELAND WOMEN’S NATIONAL team manager Vera Pauw has offered a mixed squad update ahead of their two upcoming crucial Euro 2021 qualifiers. 

The Girls In Green will be without Brighton & Hove Albion star Megan Connolly for the back-to-back clashes against Greece and Montengro, after the midfielder suffered a shoulder injury in training.

“It doesn’t look good,” Pauw said today from the team hotel, confirming that the player has been ruled out after an MRI. “It will take a few weeks before she can train again.

The Dutch native has a squad of 24 at the moment, with 23 to make the cut for Greece on Thursday [Tallaght Stadium, 7.15pm] which will be shown live on RTÉ 2.

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The broadcaster has also confirmed that it will have live coverage of the second game of this double-header of Euro qualifier action when Ireland take on Montenegro on Wednesday 11 March.

Rising star Jessica Ziu (groin injury) has been released from the set-up, and may join the U19s ahead of two upcoming friendlies against Russia in Spain, while goalkeeper Niamh Reid Burke has also departed. 

Connolly’s clubmate across the water, Rianna Jarrett — who enjoyed a dream debut for the Seagulls last week after her move from Wexford Youths — is having her load managed after a return from injury, while recently-added American-born striker Kyra Carusa is eligible to play.  

Pauw has also confirmed two more foreign-based players for future consideration in former England underage duo Maegan Doyle and Nicole Douglas. The former is an attacking midfielder “with high hopes,” though she has sustained a hamstring injury, while Arizona State University striker Douglas has been released from the squad.

She had been training, but is not eligible to don the green jersey yet.

Centurion Áine O’Gorman is also in line for a return after her retirement U-turn while Megan Campbell is unavailable for selection. The Manchester City defender is is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines having undergone surgery last week.

Ireland boss Vera Pauw.

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Over 5,000 tickets have been distributed for Thursday so far, with a new record attendance looking likely after 5,328 watched Ireland beat Greece 3-2 earlier in the campaign. 

The coronavirus outbreak is not a threat to the fixture at the minute, Pauw added:

“The FAI is in direct contact with the Health Service Executive, and they are monitoring it. We have been told to train and act as planned. The medical staff updates me but there’s no reason to do anything different.”

Though Ireland are unbeaten, this double-header is a must-win after a last-gasp draw in Athens. Home wins over Montenegro and Ukraine were key, but group heavyweights Germany are coming down the tracks as Ireland’s dream of reaching a first-ever major tournament lives on.

“It’s crucial,” Pauw said of winning the Greece tie. “If we draw, it’s not over but it becomes really difficult. We’re going to do something a little bit different.

“This team [Ireland] is not a team to sit off. I go with the qualities we have and try to eliminate what we don’t have. Sitting off is not our best approach. As soon as we sit off we become passive. If we don’t influence their play that means they take over. That is why we will always take the initiative.”

“During the game I hope the fans will be loud and really boost us to another level because that’s what we will need,” she added.

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