Republic of Ireland striker Áine O’Gorman says the future is bright for Irish football despite the senior international side missing out on qualification for the World Cup in France.
The Girls in Green ended their campaign on a high note with a 4-0 win over Northern Ireland – their biggest of the campaign – for a third-place finish.
The group, which had started so brightly and saw Ireland joint-first with four games remaining – fizzled out with three straight defeats to the Netherlands and Norway twice.
That would have been in line with most people’s pre-tournament predictions – Norway were top seeds and the Netherlands European champions – but they showed they can compete at that level.
A scoreless draw away to the Netherlands in Eindhoven gave genuine hope Ireland could contend for at least a play-off spot but the strength of the European giants eventually shone through.
“It was good to end the group on a high and get a result against Northern Ireland,” the Peamount woman told the Dublin Gazette at the launch of Dublin City Council’s Dublin Sportsfest at Irishtown Stadium.
“There was the draw away to Holland, which was a great result, and playing those teams always shows you where you have to get to and where you’re at.
“I think we were unlucky away to Norway as well – it was just a peno that kept us out of the game.
“We’re not that far off – a bit more hard work and I think we’ll be able to compete with these teams and take a scalp in future.”
One very noticeable feature of this campaign has been the large crowds in Tallaght Stadium – the game with the Netherlands saw a record attendance of more than 3,500 turn out.
“The crowd are the 12th man. The Irish support is always great and I think that will benefit us going forward.
“Tallaght Stadium was in great nick the past few games and we just need to make it our home turf.”
O’Gorman made her 100th appearance for Ireland in the narrow defeat to Norway that ended the campaign, joining a select number of players to reach that milestone in men’s or women’s football.
With 16-year-old Tyler Toland now a regular fixture and teenagers Jessica Ziu and Isibeal Atkinson establishing themselves, she reckons there’ll be many more faces in the 100 club in future.
“Obviously it’s a huge honour to play 100 times for your country, but there are more games annually now.
“These players coming in have such quality they will be around for a long time if they look after themselves. The manager is keen to nurture those young players and bed them into the team.
“There’s more young girls playing football now than there ever was, and better resources, so the future should be bright.”