After Montenegro were throttled 10-0 by Germany in their campaign opener at the weekend, Tom O’Connor should achieve a 100% competitive record as Ireland women’s team manager against the minnows tonight.
Any unease within the camp about the FAI’s problems in recruiting a suitable successor to Colin Bell has to be allayed by the fact it isn’t until next month’s visit of second seeds Ukraine to Tallaght Stadium that the real tests of the Euro qualifiers begin.
By then, a permanent manager will have been appointed. O’Connor remains in contention but is more likely to revert to the assistant role he fulfilled under Bell and his predecessor Sue Ronan.
The insistence by Ireland’s Manchester City defender Megan Campbell that the vacancy needs to be filled by an external candidate irked the FAI, albeit they accept a manager of experience and profile remains the priority.
That’s why Maren Meinert, formerly Germany’s U19 manager, and ex-England assistant manager Marieanne Spacey had been linked with the job without the FAI being able to seal either deal.
“It’s a very big decision to make,” mused O’Connor on the eve of their opener at Tallaght Stadium, having taken charge for the 3-0 friendly defeat to USA last month.
“I’ve been interviewed for the job and am waiting back on the result. Whatever happens, I’ll still be myself.
“You grow up wanting to represent your country on the pitch, so from a personal perspective, I’ve loved every minute of being the custodian of this position.”
Bell’s exit for a post with Championship club Huddersfield Town sent shockwaves through the FAI but O’Connor plans to maintain the Englishman’s influence.
“I’ve only had to change a few little things,” says the Dubliner .
“For example, in the morning, we have a hug instead of a handshake when greeting each other. This is a happy camp. We’re not putting on a charade for the media. There is a determination to get the campaign off to a winning start.”
That is essential given only the top two finishers from a pool including Germany, Ukraine, Greece and Montenegro can feature at 2021 finals in England. Second place will at least clinch a play-off.
“There’s not a chance of us settling for second place,” affirmed captain Katie McCabe.
“A lot of our players are operating in professional environments across England and Europe, so the Irish-based players can look up to that.” O’Connor was similarly upbeat. “Right now, I’d be confident about our team facing Germany next week,” he said about the group’s top seeds.
“Tyler Toland is still only 18 and has joined Manchester City. Hopefully she’ll develop into a world-class bracket if she keeps progressing.” Women’s Euro 2021 qualifier:
M Hourihan (SC Braga); H Payne (Florida State University), D Caldwell (SC Sand), L Quinn (Arsenal), H Scott (Birmingham City); T Toland (Manchester City), N Fahey (Liverpool); K McCabe (Arsenal), D O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), R Jarrett (Wexford Youths); A Barrett (FC Köln).