Republic of Ireland U19 Women look to skipper O’Sullivan for inspiration
The connection between the 2010 Republic of Ireland U17 squad and the current U19 squad could be the key to qualification from Group 1 in this week’s UEFA European U19 Women’s Championship qualifying tournament in Serbia.
Three of the U19 squad, skipper Denise O’Sullivan, Rihanna Jarrett and Claire Shine, were all part of the U17 group which stunned women’s football two years ago by first beating Germany in the semi-finals of the UEFA European U17 Championship, then losing narrowly on penalties to Spain in the final before reaching the quarter-finals of the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup where their run was halted by the eventual runners-up, Japan.
Then, they were among the youngest members of Noel King’s squad but in Serbia this week they will be key players in Dave Connell’s attack as they bid to qualify from a group that also contains Serbia, Latvia and tomorrow’s opponent Cyprus.
“Their experience will be very important and they have all looked very sharp in training which is hopefully a good sign for the week ahead,” said Connell.
Of the three, 18-year-old O’Sullivan is the player who has made most progress since those days and the Cork women was a shoe-in to captain the U19 side this week given what she has gone on to achieve since 2010.
She helped her club Wilton United reach the 2011 FAI Women’s Senior Cup Final and although she scored in the final she could not prevent her side losing 3-1 to St Catherine’s. Her performances were enough to persuade Eileen Gleeson to sign her for Peamount United and she played in the Champions League as the Dublin side reached the last 32 before going out to French giants PSG.
O’Sullivan also did enough to persuade Republic of Ireland senior team manager Sue Ronan to give her a senior international debut in a European Championship tie against Wales and she rewarded the faith shown in her by scoring both Irish goals in a 2-0 win. Since then she has gone to record a tally of four goals from eight games at senior level over the past 13 months and was certainly one of the positives to emerge from the recent European Championship campaign.
“Playing senior was a big step from U19 level but it went well for me even though it was much more physical,” said O’Sullivan.
After her Champions League experiences with Peamount, O’Sullivan returned to her native Cork and joined Cork Women’s FC in the Bus Eireann Women’s National League. She scored six goals last season and has already bagged two in the current campaign.
“The Women’s National league is very competitive and every game is great. It is a great challenge for us. It has also given other girls a chance to get a look kin and it’s great that there is nearly always somebody from FAI there watching the games,” said O’Sullivan
Jarrett, who plays for Wexford Women, has scored three goals already this season and vice captain Emma Hansberry has got two for Castlebar and all three have set their sights on adding to their haul over the next week.
“I can’t wait for it,” says O’Sullivan. “We’ve trained a lot together and we all get on great with each other. It’s not going to be easy. Each game will be tough but we’ll give it our best shot.”
Republic of Ireland U19 Women’s Squad: Jillian Moloney (GSA 95 Phoenix Red, USA), Courtney Brosnan (PDA Slammers, USA), Denise O’Sullivan (Cork Women’s FC), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic), Claire Shine (Cork Women’s FC), Kelly Halligan (Blackburn Rovers), Gemma McGuinness (Greencastle FC), Rihanna Jarrett (Wexford Youths), Grace Wright (Challenge FC, USA), Ciara O’Connell (Wilton United), Katie McCabe (Raheny United), Shauna Newman (Raheny United), Carys Johnson (Everton), Emily Cahill (Peamount United), Lauren Murphy (Cork Women’s FC), Chloe Mustaki (Peamount United), Sinead O’Farrelly (Raheny United), Orlagh Nolan (Shamrock Rovers).