Requiring a victory in Belfast in order to secure a spot in the promotion playoffs of the UEFA Women’s Nations League, Tanya Oxtoby saw out three changes to her Northern Ireland side heading into this evening’s clash at Windsor Park. Demi Vance, Danielle Maxwell and Joely Andrews all making way for the midfield trio of Nadene Caldwell, Rebecca Holloway and Caragh Hamilton Milligan.
Having already reigned victorious over Group E in the UEFA Women’s Nations League, Republic of Ireland manager Eileen Gleeson opted to keep her changes minimal coming off the back of a 1-0 victory over Hungary at Tallaght Stadium. Alterations to her starting eleven saw both Izzy Atkinson and Tyler Toland make way for the experienced duo of Lucy Quinn and Jamie Finn.
NI: Harvey Clifford; McKenna, McFadden, Rafferty, Millgan, Caldwell, McCarron, Callaghan, Holloway, Magill, Wade
ROI: Brosnan; Payne, Hayes, Quinn, McCabe, Finn, Connolly, Littlejohn, Carusa, Quinn, O’Sullivan
A 6pm kick-off saw home and away fans flood through the Windsor Park turnstiles, an occasion marked by the first time a Republic of Ireland football side has played at the Belfast stadium since 1994.
In what commenced as an even scrap, both sides struggled to generate an attacking threat going forward in the opening stages of the game. A searching ball from Megan Connolly saw Katie McCabe’s drive into the 18-yard box denied at the death after a strong challenge from McKenna forced the ball out for the first corner of the match.
Despite what arrived as an evenly possessed opening half an hour, Lucy Quinn carried the ball with defined confidence in the face of a retreating Northern Ireland defence, before a right-footed strike from the edge of the box saw the net ripple for the Republic of Ireland’s first of the evening.Embed from Getty Images
As if the floodgates had opened, a minute elapsed before a pin-point cross from the boot of Lucy Quinn was answered by Heather Payne, with the Everton defender’s volley doubling the threatening lead of Republic of Ireland in the 38th minute.
A searching effort from Sarah McFadden deemed for a hopeful response for Northern Ireland, though her strike was denied by the finger tips of an outstretched Courtney Brosnan, who saw the ball over the crossbar and out for a corner.
Despite what began as a neutral battle at Windsor Park, Eileen Gleeson’s Republic of Ireland side asserted dominance heading into half time, controlling the tempo in an authoritative fashion.
Half-time saw the arrival of two changes for Tanya Oxtoby’s Northern Ireland side, Simone Magill and Rebecca McKenna making way for Kerry Anne Beattie, as well as defender Demi Vance making her entrance into the fixture in what would be her 90th appearance for the nation.
The break in play didn’t have any affect on the streaming momentum of the Girls in Green, with a searching cross from captain Katie McCabe finding the head of Kyra Carusa in just the 47th minute of play.
If the three goal deficit hadn’t already proved an uphill challenge for the home side, a 4-0 settler in the 50th minute added a layer of disappointment to an already deflated Windsor Park. In true Katie McCabe fashion, the Arsenal defender found the cobwebs of the woodwork on her non-preferred right-foot, much to the gleeful delight of the travelling fans.Embed from Getty Images
In what was proving to be a forgettable night for Oxtoby’s Northern Irish side, terms were made worse when a searching corner from Bristol City’s Megan Connolly found the head of Louise Quinn to net home the Republic of Ireland’s fifth for the evening.
Half-time substitute Kerry Anne Beattie found a response for Northern Ireland, her goal assisted by Rebecca Holloway striking the tally on the piling deficit heading into the final fifteen minutes of the fixture.
Despite the dominant display, the Girls in Green remained relentless in attack, adding a sixth to their tally in the closing minutes of the match. In just her sixth appearance for the Republic of Ireland, a well-timed sliding volley from Celtic defender Caitlin Hayes floated past Maddy Harvey-Clifford to close the evening’s scoresheet at 6-1.
A dominant performance in Belfast sees the Republic of Ireland remain undefeated in their UEFA Nations League campaign, with six consecutive victories earning Eileen Gleeson’s side promotion into League A of the competition.