McCabe leads way on record-breaking night

by Dave Donnelly

Kilnamanagh’s Katie McCabe scored the opener as Ireland made it two wins from two in qualifying for Euro 2021 with a 3-2 win over Ukraine in front of a record crowd of Tallaght Stadium of 5,328 on Tuesday night.

First-half goals from captain McCabe and striker Rianna Jarrett put Ireland in the driving seat before two quick concessions saw the tie level at half-time.

An own goal from Atletico Madrid’s Natiya Panstulaya seven minutes into the second half settled the tie as Vera Pauw saw victory in her first game as Ireland coach.

Dutch native Pauw took over from Colin Bell last month after Tom O’Connor had overseen the 2-0 victory against Montenegro in the opening game.

She made four changes from that game with Manchester City’s Tyler Toland and West Ham’s Leanne Kiernan making way for Megan Connolly of Brighton and Heather Payne of University of Florida.

Former Shelbourne defender, and Celtic’s player of the year, Keeva Keenan also came into the starting eleven as Pauw put her stamp on her new team.

Ireland’s fourth returning player, Man City left-back Megan Campbell, created the first chance with a raking long throw that Arsenal’s Louise Quinn couldn’t quite turn on target.

Diane Caldwell and Quinn forced saves from Ukraine keeper Kateryna Samson as the girls in green kept the pressure on in the early stages, and eventually their resistance waned.

McCabe was the goalscorer but the majority of the credit went to Jarrett, who latched onto Denise O’Sullivan’s pass and picked out the Arsenal winger for a composed finish.

The pair reversed roles three minutes later, McCabe turning provider for Jarrett with a pinpoint corner that was headed in by the Wexford striker.

Ukraine pulled a goal back shortly afterwards in farcical circumstances as Marie Hourihan dropped a straightforward-looking catch and allowed Lyubov Shmatko to poke home the loose ball.

A mistake from Connolly led to Ukraine’s leveller two minutes before the break as Olha Ovdiychuk smashed the ball past Hourihan.

Ireland regrouped at half time and could have restored their lead inside two minutes as rangey defender Quinn met a Connolly free kick with her head, but Samson was equal to it.

The third goal arrived in the 52nd minute as Connolly’s quick throw set Jarrett free and she squared for O’Sullivan, whose goalbound effort was turned into her own net by Shmatko.

“It’s an absolutely fantastic start,” said McCabe.

“The girls have been fantastic all week and I think we showed that coming out in the first half with the fighting spirit we always do and we got the three points in the end.

“We’ve been working all week in training to use the ball better and we have the attacking players to do so and the defenders to tidy up at the back.

“I’m really happy it came off and I’m ecstatic at the team performance tonight – they gave it all.”

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