REPUBLIC of Ireland Under-19 women’s manager Dave Connell believes his side can “go all the way” to the title following their perfect record in the European Championships group stages in Norway this week.
His side stunned Spain in their tournament opener before beating both England and Sweden 2-1, setting up a semi-final date with the Netherlands in the final four on Thursday, July 24 for the right to play either Norway or Spain in the final.
The side has a heavy Dublin influence with Raheny’s Clare Shine scoring in the Spanish win while Shelbourne’s Keeva Keenan has also been on the mark.
Shine is among a list of ever-presents in the tournament to date along with UCD Waves’ captain Chloe Mustaki, Peamount goalkeeper Brooke Dunne and Raheny’s Katie McCabe of the local brigade and they now sit two games away from a remarkable piece of history after a ground-breaking week.
Speaking about the tournament, Connell said that he always believed his panel would make some waves when not many others had been heralding their chances.
“Not a lot of people gave us a chance before this tournament started,” he said. “We have heart and belief, which I truly think is what drives us on.
“How far can we go? Of course we can go all the way. We have everything it takes to be champions.”
On Monday evening, his side secured their third straight victory with their win over Sweden, producing a second successive comeback from a goal down as Savannah McCarthy and Megan Connolly both netted to counteract Julia Wahlberg’s opener at the UKI Arena, Jessheim.
McCarthy provided a brilliant header from the middle of the box in the first half before Connolly arced in a free-kick late in the game to guarantee top spot in the group.
“Their goal came quite early on, so there was plenty of time to get back into it,” Connell added. “We showed great character out there and the girls really dug deep. We have two 17-year olds getting the goals. That says it all at this level.
“I really hope the people of Ireland are proud of us. We finished the group on three wins and nine points, played three top nations and showed what we can do. I am absolutely delighted for the girls.
“There’s a lot of belief that we can go all the way. We are very hard to beat because of that belief and they showed amazing courage in this and the other two games,” said Connell.