RAHENY United’s senior women’s soccer side made it through to the last 32 of the UEFA Women’s Champions League last week, having topped their qualifying group in Romania, finishing off their international mission with a 2-1 win over Malta’s Hibernians.
In so doing, they became just the second Irish team to reach the last 32 of the competition, thanks to goals from Catherine Cronin and Clare Shine in that last group encounter.
They finished on top of Group 2 on full points, ahead of hosts Olimpia Cluj who beat Bulgarian champions NSA Sofia 4-1 to secure second place.
The draw for the round of 32 will take place at UEFA headquarters next Friday with the two-legged knockout phase commencing in October, and Raheny manager Casey McQuillan said he was delighted to be joining Europe’s top clubs on the back of a 100 per cent record in the qualifying competition.
“Well they [the other teams] are actually joining us in the last 32,” he quipped, before adding: “It’s a great achievement and I don’t think the girls actually realise the enormity of what they have done.
“They have worked very hard to do this and they were determined to win their last match against Hibernians and finish on nine points.”
Raheny’s wins over Bulgarian champions NSA Sofia and Romania’s Olimpia Cluj, who hosted the mini-tournament, earlier in the week meant that they would qualify through the head to head phase even if they were beaten by their Maltese opponents. As things turned out, they didn’t need that safety net, but they were made to work hard for their victory.
“Hibernians defended very deep and scored from the only shot they had on goal,” said McQuillan.
“The two games earlier in the week obviously took a toll and we got a little bit impatient when our pressure wasn’t yielding goals but they stuck at it and got the win they deserved. I was delighted that we were able to give some of the girls a game today because everybody has played their part in this,” said McQuillan.
Despite starting strongly, and going close early on through Shine and Cronin, Raheny were rocked on 15 minutes when Hibernians, who had lost 5-0 in each of their two previous group games, opened the scoring through Dionne Tonna who turned home a free-kick.