Irish Hammer Leanne Kiernan has eyes on Euro prize

Irish Hammer Leanne Kiernan has eyes on Euro prize

Goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan claims the ball ahead of Diane Caldwell and Leanne Kiernan, right, during a Republic of Ireland training session at Sportschule Wedau in Duisburg, Germany. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Not that Ireland striker Leanne Kiernan needed motivation to reach a major tournament but living with a World Cup participant only heightened her drive.

The West Ham United player was residing in her London home two years ago when her housemate Jane Ross arrived back from France loaded with tales of her experience with the Scotland squad.

As viewers of the Squad Goals BBC documentary can attest, the son of the club’s co-owner’s David Sullivan, Jack, has assembled a cosmopolitan squad since they entered the Women’s Super League in 2018. 

Kiernan has been there since the start, moving as a teen from Cavan to the bright lights of the English capital.

Featuring over three seasons in what is fast becoming one of the leading leagues in the world constitutes a feat but complementing that success for Ireland is the next objective.

A draw in Friday’s penultimate Euro qualifier against Ukraine in Kiev would seal a play-off for the 2022 showpiece, with next month’s final fixture at home against Germany to spare. Ireland have never before qualified for a major tournament.

“I was a bit jealous of the West Ham players going off to the World Cup when we weren’t going,” explains the 21-year-old. 

“There was massive hype behind Scotland qualifying for the first time and they actually went on to do quite well. But listen, that’s what I had to deal with. Now look where we are, having a great chance to get to the Euros.” 

In Vera Pauw’s first match at the helm inside a packed Tallaght Stadium, Ireland clinched a 3-2 win over Ukraine. 

Victories over Montenegro and Greece maintained their surge but a late equaliser conceded in the visit of Greece to Dublin last November means Ukraine can make up lost ground by winning at the Obolon Arena.

Were Ireland to win to consolidate second spot, they may yet qualify for the delayed 2022 finals automatically as one the best runners-ups.

One thing Kiernan expects from Ukraine this time is respect. “Ukraine underestimated us in Tallaght and hopefully we can show them again that they shouldn’t,” said the striker yesterday at the squad’s training base in Duisburg, Germany.

“They were probably looking at us, having never qualified for a tournament, but we did the job on them.” 

The rising profile of Ireland’s squad creates confidence that they can finish that job. 

Kiernan is one of several Irish players operating in a league attracting top talent from overseas such as American World Cup winner Alex Morgan recently arriving at Spurs.

“We have more players abroad now in some of the best leagues in the world and we’re pretty prepped this time,” said Kiernan. 

“I think we’re a better team than the first game against Ukraine 12 months ago. As Vera has said recently, this is like a cup final. We know how much this means to the country as we could make history by qualifying.”

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