CORK soccer stars Denise O'Sullivan, Clare Shine and Megan Connolly will be hoping to be to the fore for the Irish women's team this autumn after the remaining 2022 Euro qualifiers were rescheduled.
Ireland are in a very strong position to make the tournament, which was put back a year due to Covid-19, though they face two extremely tough ties when soccer restarts.
The upcoming games are fixed for September 19, a qualifier away to Germany, October 21, away to Ukraine, and December 1, at home to Germany. The Germans are one of the best teams in the world and it will be a stretch for Ireland to take any points from them, even at home.
The trip to Ukraine could be decisive as Vera Pauw's side bid to stay in their groove and grab their spot alongside hosts England and the rest of the countries to make up the 16-team event in 2022.
Ireland's main rivals for the runners-up berth in Group I are Greece, with Montenegro and Ukraine yet to gain any points, though the latter had to face Germany twice already. Still, the game out in Ukraine in October is certainly the biggest on the horizon. Ireland defeated them 3-2 at home last October.
The group winners and the three runners-up with the best record against the sides first to fifth in their sections will progress to the tournament. The other six runners-up will then enter the play-offs next April for three spots.
The logistics of these Ireland games and indeed soccer on a European scale are yet to be worked out, though the Bundesliga has cranked back into gear and the English Premier League is nearing its return.
Pauw's charges had been on song before the Covid-19 shutdown, with Cork midfield maestro Denise O'Sullivan hitting the net against Montenegro. Clare Shine featured heavily for Ireland too, though Megan Connolly has been struggling with injury.
Meanwhile, with a vast bank of experience in winning set-ups to her name, including John Caulfield's double-winning Cork City group, Northern Ireland in the Michael O'Neill era, and Jim Gavin's Dublin footballers, Lisa Fallon has been appointed head coach of London City Lionesses.
The Dubliner previously worked in media, print, which covered a stint with The Echo here on Leeside, and radio, and was most recently involved with Chelsea, as a member of women’s team’s technical staff.
The Lionesses compete in the FA Championship, the second tier in England, but are a fully professional and ambitious club.
“This is a seminal moment in my career and an extremely proud day for me and everyone who has helped me through my career to-date," Fallon told the club website.
“I was drawn to the ambition of the club and board – together I am sure that we will take this club forward. The squad is exciting with lots of potential and we are all looking forward to getting back out on the grass and back to training.
"Finally, and most importantly, I would like to talk directly to the supporters – we’ll be a hard-working, attacking team that will continue to make you proud."