Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team were defeated by a rampant Republic of Ireland Women in Belfast this evening.
The Republic, who had already qualified as winners of League B Group 1 in the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League, turned on the power and style to win the B1 encounter by six goals to one.
Northern Ireland had to win the game at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park to guarantee a play-off spot for a place in League A in the next phase of the competition.
Instead, following the disappointing 6-1 defeat to the Republic and Hungary’s emphatic 6-0 win over Albania this evening, they will now face a play-off against a League C team for a place in League B next time around.
The Republic started brightly in front of 9,000 fans at the National Stadium, however the home defence stood firm.
The first effort on goal was a long range strike from Northern Ireland defender Rebecca Holloway which dropped over the bar.
On 20 minutes Northern Ireland keeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford rose well to claim the ball as Megan Connolly whipped in a dangerous-looking corner.
Three minutes later Sarah McFadden got on the end of a Chloe McCarron corner. Her looping header was comfortably collected by Republic keeper Courtney Brosnan.
In the 30th minute a clearance from a corner dropped to Marissa Callaghan inside the area, however the Northern Ireland captain’s shot sailed well over the top.
Lucy Quinn opened the scoring for the Republic on 37 minutes. Katie McCabe flicked the ball to Quinn just outside the area and she slipped past McFadden before scooping the ball past Harvey-Clifford.
It was 2-0 to the visitors two minutes later. Quinn provided the assist as she crossed to the back post where Heather Payne provided an emphatic finish into the roof of the net.
Brosnan tipped a Callaghan cross over the bar as Northern Ireland attempted to get back into it. Brosnan then had to push away a powerful McCarron delivery from a corner.
At the start of the second half Eileen Gleeson’s side extended their lead. Republic captain McCabe fired in a cross from the left flank which was headed home from close range by striker Kyra Carusa.
Three minutes later, in the 50th minute, McCabe produced a superb run and finish into the top corner to make it 4-0.
On the hour mark Harvey-Clifford superbly tipped a stinging shot from Payne over the bar as the visitors searched for a fifth – and it came from the resulting corner when Louise Quinn powerfully headed the ball home.
Northern Ireland pulled a goal back in the 75th minute. Wade forced a corner, which was delivered by McCarron. The ball was cleared as far as Holloway who fired it across goal where substitute Kerry Beattie instinctively prodded it into the net.
Lucy Quinn shot straight at Harvey-Clifford as the Republic continued to push forward.
A sixth goal for the Republic followed in the 86th minute when Caitlin Hayes swept the ball home from a Connolly corner.
The defeat meant Northern Ireland finished third in League B Group 1 on seven points. The Republic topped the group on 18 points, while the Hungarians finished second with eight points.
Northern Ireland Women: Maddy Harvey-Clifford, Rebecca McKenna, Rebecca Holloway, Sarah McFadden, Laura Rafferty, Nadene Caldwell, Chloe McCarron, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Simone Magill, Caragh Hamilton, Lauren Wade.
Substitutes: (used) Demi Vance, Kerry Beattie, Danielle Maxwell, Megan Bell; (unused) Shannon Turner, Rachael Norney, Ellie Mason, Keri Halliday, Rachel McLaren, Emily Wilson, Joely Andrews, Abbie Magee.
Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan, Katie McCabe (captain), Heather Payne, Megan Connolly, Louise Quinn, Caitlin Hayes, Ruesha Littlejohn, Jamie Finn, Kyra Carusa, Denise O’Sullivan, Lucy Quinn.
Substitutes: Grace Moloney (GK), Sophie Whitehouse (GK), Jessie Stapleton, Chloe Mustaki, Diane Caldwell, Erin McLaughlin, Tyler Toland, Hayley Nolan, Abbie Larkin, Ellen Dolan, Lily Agg, Izzy Atkinson.