Republic of Ireland Women proved too strong for Northern Ireland’s senior women’s team at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin this afternoon.
New manager Tanya Oxtoby’s side failed to spoil the party as the Republic secured a deserved 3-0 victory in the opening fixture for both sides in the inaugural UEFA Women’s Nations League.
The encounter between the top seeds (Republic) and second seeds in League B Group 1 was the Republic’s official welcome home following their appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Australia in July.
A record crowd of 35,944, including 1300 fans from Northern Ireland, were in the Aviva for the derby match, which was largely bossed by the hosts.
The opening 20-minute period was a cagey affair as both teams eased their way into the game – and both defences were on top. Northern Ireland centre backs Sarah McFadden and Rebecca Holloway, flanked by Abbie Magee and Demi Vance, were solid as a rock.
After that, however, the home side upped the tempo and soon had the visitors backtracking.
On 22 minutes Republic captain Katie McCabe fired a free-kick over the bar and minutes later Northern Ireland keeper Shannon Turner saved with her knees as Kyra Carusa nodded on a Caitlin Hayes header from a McCabe corner.
In the 30th minute Turner produced a fine stop from a Hayes header, however from the resulting corner the Republic opened the scoring. Rachel Furness headed the ball clear from McCabe’s delivery but it fell to Lucy Quinn and she found the back of the net with a crisp low drive from the edge of the area. It deflected off Furness on the way in.
Quinn’s effort from distance landed on the top of the net as the Republic turned the screw.
In the 43rd minute Quinn was teed up by Carusa and her goal-bound effort struck McFadden on the line before bouncing out to safety.
Northern Ireland rarely got out of their half in the opening 45 minutes, with striker Simone Magill finding herself isolated up top.
After the break Vance swung in a cross which was comfortably saved by Republic keeper Courtney Brosnan. And then Vance was quickly in action down the other end. Carusa poked the ball through Turner’s legs from close range but Vance got back to clear it off the line.
Magee’s whipped cross was headed across goal by Joely Andrews as Northern Ireland showed more attacking intent.
A dangerous curling cross from McCabe drifted wide as the game switched from end to end.
In the 62nd minute Furness cleared the ball over her own bar as the Republic threatened once again. Then she headed the resulting corner away before making another clearance minutes later.
Republic substitute Abbie Larkin swept a shot inches wide before a mix-up between Holloway and Turner led to the Republic’s second goal in the 70th minute.
Turner came running outside her area as the ball was launched forward. The keeper appeared to unsettle the backtracking Holloway whose attempted clearance fell into Carusa’s path and she stroked the ball into an empty net from 30 yards.
The Republic’s third goal of the game came in the 85th minute through substitute Lily Agg. McCabe swung in a corner which was met by Agg. Her header hit the post before crossing the line.
Northern Ireland had a strong penalty claim turned down in added time. A Caragh Hamilton cross into the area was pushed away by Republic midfielder Tyler Toland with her hands but the ref waved play on.
Republic of Ireland: Courtney Brosnan, Caitlin Hayes, Louise Quinn, Diane Caldwell, Tyler Toland, Megan Connolly, Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe (captain), Kyra Carusa, Heather Payne, Lucy Quinn.
Substitutes: Grace Moloney (GK), Megan Walsh (GK), Claire O’Riordan, Chloe Mustaki, Amber Barrett, Lily Agg, Eabha O’Mahony, Jamie Finn, Abbie Larkin, Marissa Sheva, Emily Whelan, Izzy Atkinson.
Northern Ireland: Shannon Turner, Abbie Magee, Demi Vance, Sarah McFadden, Rebecca Holloway, Joely Andrews, Caragh Hamilton, Marissa Callaghan (captain), Simone Magill, Rachel Furness, Emily Wilson.
Substitutes: (used) Nadene Caldwell, Lauren Wade, Laura Rafferty, Chloe McCarron; (unused) Rachael Norney (GK), Lilie Woods (GK), Rebecca McKenna, Ellie Mason, Kirsty McGuinness, Caitlin McGuinness, Megan Bell, Kerry Beattie.