Republic of Ireland 1 Slovakia 1
THE Republic of Ireland dropped two huge points in their bid to earn a playoff spot in Group A of the qualifying round for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium on Thursday night.
Katie McCabe’s second-half goal - created by Cork’s Denise O’Sullivan - was only enough to earn Ireland a draw whereas a win would have seen them climb to joint second.
Vera Pauw named an unchanged side following their 2-1 win against Finland last time out with Leesiders Denise O’Sullivan and Megan Connolly, who scored the goals that night in Helsinki, retaining their place in midfield.
O’Sullivan was winning her 88th senior cap and Connolly was claiming her 32nd but there was no place for Saoirse Noonan, who earned her first cap in Ireland’s last home game against Sweden, in the matchday squad although her former Cork City teammate Éabha O’Mahony was named amongst the substitutes.
Sweden’s narrow 2-1 win over Finland earlier in the evening meant victory for the Girls in Green would further boost their chances of claiming the coveted playoff spot.
News of that full-time score didn’t come through until midway through the first half and by that point, Ireland were struggling to break through a tough and at times overly physical Slovakia side.
Their first attempt didn’t come until the 32nd minute but Lucy Quinn’s looping header from Aine O’Gorman’s floated cross was easily saved.
Courtney Brosnan was soon called into action at the other end of the pitch and she was equal to Dominika Skorvankova’s low drive from a tight angle.
Ireland finished the first period with a higher tempo although their best chance at finally breaking the deadlock came from a set-piece but Louise Quinn’s header from Katie McCabe’s corner was stopped low at her near post by Korenciova.
But just two minutes after the restart, disaster struck as Slovakia took the lead. After McCabe’s free was punched clear, the visitors broke quickly and Ľudmila Maťavková’s superb cross from the right was bundled in from a few yards out at the back stick by Martina Šurnovská.
Roared on by a crowd of 5,164, although a record 6,500 tickets were sold prior to kick-off, the Republic responded well to conceding that goal with O’Sullivan seeing a goalbound effort blocked before Connolly’s thunderous hit was tipped wide approaching the hour.
But the equaliser would come on 65 and O’Sullivan was again involved as her precise pass released McCabe inside the box and she expertly drilled the ball into the far bottom right corner.
Brosnan palmed Alexandra Biroova’s header from a long free wide moments before she almost gifted Slovakia a goal in the 75th minute but Louise Quinn was alert and cleared Laura Zemberyova’s effort off the line after the shot-stopper’s heavy touch presented her with the ball.
Ireland battled until the end but they couldn’t find that crucial winner against a team just 12 places further behind in the FIFA World rankings as their attention turns to Tuesday’s home fixture with Georgia.