CORK'S Denise O’Sullivan helped the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team end a run of seven consecutive defeats by impressively defeating a strong Australia side 3-2 in an enthralling friendly at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Knocknaheeny native netted her side’s second goal of the evening, either side of an own goal and a Louise Quinn header, to ensure Ireland secured a confidence-boosting win - their first since March 2020 - before their World Cup qualifying campaign begins at home to Sweden next month.
Manager Vera Pauw named O’Sullivan in her starting eleven albeit she was deployed in a deeper midfield role than the one she usually occupies.
Fellow Leesider Clare Shine remained on the substitutes bench while Saoirse Noonan was omitted from the final matchday squad. Megan Connolly and Éabha O’Mahony had also been called up but both were forced to withdraw before the camp came together.
This was the first time since the pandemic began that fans were allowed in to watch Ireland live and the 3,314 that took the opportunity to attend were treated to a highly entertaining first half.
It took Lucy Quinn and a number of years to become eligible to represent Ireland but it took her just a few minutes here to show what she can offer.
Shortly after creating a chance for Amber Barrett, who saw a powerful strike saved, she played a significant part in Ireland taking the lead after just three minutes.
The Birmingham City star immediately took responsibility for a free kick on the edge of the penalty area but after curling it against the left post, she was fortunate to see the ball ricochet off the keeper and into the back of the net.
The Australians, who are ranked 11th in the FIFA world rankings 22 places ahead of the Irish, would level the score against the run of play just shy of the quarter of an hour mark when keeper Courtney Brosnan somehow let Mary Fowler’s low drive from distance trickle into the net.
But the Girls in Green responded well to that setback and they were inches away from edging in front again in the 20th minute when Alanna Kennedy nodded Aine O’Gorman’s cross against her own crossbar.
The reprieve was all too brief for the visitors as Ireland deservedly retook the lead midway through the first half thanks to O’Sullivan.
The ball broke kindly to the playmaker on the edge of the penalty area following a corner and on the night she won her 85th cap, she scored her 12th goal courtesy of a huge deflection.
A couple of sensational last-ditch blocks from former Cork City player Savannah McCarthy looked to have ensured that they would take that lead into the break but deep into injury time at the end of the first half, Fowler would net her and Australia’s second goal with the help of another huge deflection.
And although Ireland would be forced to defend for large spells of the second period, Louise Quinn who was incredible at the back, headed a McCabe corner into the bottom left corner minutes after the restart to ultimately seal a memorable triumph.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan, Aine O’Gorman, Niamh Fahey, Louise Quinn, Savannah McCarthy, Katie McCabe, Jamie Finn, Denise O’Sullivan, Amber Barrett, Lucy Quinn, Heather Payne.
Subs: Niamh Farrelly for Barrett (60), Emily Whelan for Quinn (72), Leanne Kiernan for Payne (89), Dianne Caldwell for Finn (89).
AUSTRALIA: Mackenzie Arnold, Courtney Nevin, Clare Polkinghorne, Chloe Logarzo, Steph Catley, Mary Fowler, Tameka Yallop, Alanna Kennedy, Emily Gielnik, Krya Cooney-Cross, Sam Kerr.
Subs used: Lydia Williams for Arnold (ht), Emma Checker for Catley (ht), Clare Wheeler for Logarzo (54), Charlotte Grant for Yallop (68), Angela Beard for Nevin (68).
Referee: Paula Brady.