Ireland v Sweden: Saoirse Noonan makes her debut but Irish come up just short

Cork's Denise O'Sullivan and Megan Connolly started in the narrow loss at Tallaght Stadium
Ireland v Sweden: Saoirse Noonan makes her debut but Irish come up just short

Saoirse Noonan of Republic of Ireland in action against Amanda Ilestedt of Sweden. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Republic of Ireland 0 Sweden 1

CORK'S Saoirse Noonan made her senior international debut as the Republic of Ireland opened their 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Qualifying campaign with a spirited performance but ultimately a narrow 1-0 defeat to Sweden at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday evening.

A Louise Quinn own goal shortly before the break proved to be the difference as Sweden - the Olympic silver medalists and team ranked second in the World - made it three wins out of three in Group A.

There were five Cork natives included in Vera Pauw’s original squad with Megan Connolly and Denise O’Sullivan - winning their 30th and 86th cap respectively - starting with Noonan and Éabha O’Mahony taking their place on the substitutes bench while Amanda Budden was left out of the final 23 player matchday squad.

Denise O'Sullivan of Republic of Ireland reacts as Swedish players celebrate their goal. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Denise O'Sullivan of Republic of Ireland reacts as Swedish players celebrate their goal. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

With their game away to Georgia needing to be rescheduled last month for Covid complications, this was Ireland’s opening game of the qualifiers and they started this game in third with Sweden and Finland already winning both their clashes with the other two sides in the group; Slovakia and the aforementioned Georgians.

Connolly and O’Sullivan played their part as Ireland, buoyed by their impressive friendly victory over Australia last time out, pressed their opponents in the opening exchanges.

The Swedes had the first attempt at goal after seven minutes but Courtney Brosnan was equal to Stina Blackstenius’s powerful strike from a tight angle.

The home side, roared on by 4,017 fans in attendance which was the maximum figure permitted, had their first sight at goal moments later but captain Katie McCabe, who has been in brilliant form for Arsenal recently, drilled her ambitious shot from distance wide of the bottom right corner.

The Girls in Green were lucky not to concede a penalty in the 19th minute when Jamie Finn looked to have fouled the lively Blackstenius inside the box but they had their own appeals waved away shortly before the half an hour mark when Louise Quinn went down under pressure from Amanda Ilestedt.

Brosnan was forced to tip over a thunderous, dipping hit from distance by Filippa Angeldal, and just when it looked like Ireland had weathered the storm, they fell behind in unfortunate circumstances six minutes before half-time.

Savannah McCarthy slipped as she retreated to help her defence and that gave Blackstenius more time to compose herself inside the box and her low drive took a huge deflection off Louise Quinn and crept past Brosnan, who was wrong-footed, at her near post.

The second period was a much cagier affair although Lucy Quinn may feel she should have done better than side-footing the ball wide from the edge of the box after a set-piece fell kindly to her shortly after the restart.

Brosnan made a number of great saves to keep Ireland in it and they finished strongly as they went in search of an equaliser with O’Sullivan going down inside the area but nothing was given before Connolly flashed a long-range effort wide late on.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan, Louise Quinn, Niamh Fahey, Savannah McCarthy, Aine O’Gorman, Jamie Finn, Megan Connolly, Denise O’Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Heather Payne, Lucy Quinn.

Subs: Leanne Kiernan for Payne (74), Amber Barrett for Finn (74), Saoirse Noonan for Lucy Quinn (93).

SWEDEN: Hedvig Lindahl, Hana Glas, Amanda Ilestedt, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson, Hanna Bennison, Fridolina Rolfo, Filippa Angeldal, Sofia Jakobsson, Stina Blackstenius, Lina Hurtig.

Subs: Olivia Schough for Hurtig (60), Julia Zigiotti Olme for Bennison (75), Nilla Fischer for Jakobsson (89).

Referee: Deborah Anex (Switzerland).

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