Rianna Jarrett hungry for goals as Ireland seek place at Euro finals

At this stage, even a goal would do to enliven the footballing spirits. Since international football resumed in September, Ireland teams have scored once in seven matches.
Rianna Jarrett hungry for goals as Ireland seek place at Euro finals

Republic of Ireland striker Rianna Jarrett at the team's training base in Duisburg, Germany, ahead of the Euro qualifier against Ukraine. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

In these difficult times, the country could do with a lift from a national football team.

That sight of jubilant players from faraway fields, albeit in empty stadiums, would provide a break back at home from the shortening days and tightening restrictions.

At this stage, even a goal would do to enliven the footballing spirits.

Since international football resumed in September, Ireland teams have scored once in seven matches.

The struggles of Stephen Kenny’s senior men in their five outings have been well dissected but the U21s didn’t hit the net either in their 2-0 defeat to Italy last week.

More forgivable was the women drawing a blank in the 3-0 loss against powerhouses Germany last month. There will be less sympathy if the drought persists in Kiev on Friday.

Once Ireland succeed in keeping Ukraine scoreless, Ireland will achieve their mission of consolidating second place and at least a play-off stab at reaching the deferred Euro finals in 2022.

But Rianna Jarrett knows the name of the game is goals. Her sole strike 11 international games was a vital one in the 3-2 win over Ukraine at Tallaght 12 months ago, and she’s hungry for more.

The Wexford native, playing for Brighton in the English Superleague since the start of the year, is likely to retain her place as Vera Pauw’s solitary centre-forward.

“It is a shame for the men's team who had some fantastic performances. None of that matters because unfortunately they couldn’t put the ball in the net.

“We need to be clinical on Friday. As a striker, and it’s the same for Amber Barrett or Leanne Kiernan who can play in that role, you want to score.

“Thankfully, we have plenty of goals in the team. Midfielders Denise O’Sullivan and Katie McCabe have scored, as has Diane Caldwell coming up from the back.

"Amber and I got goals too, so the main thing is setting up the player in the best position. We’ll just need to take our chances.” 

Since Jarrett first emerged onto the scene as part of the Ireland U17 squad that reached the 2010 World Cup, her progress has been punctuated by injuries. Cruciate ligament ruptures in both knees cast doubt over whether the potential so evident in her youth would translate on the big stage.

Pauw believed in Jarrett within days of taking the job a year ago, and so too did Brighton. Tempted by a short-term contract in January, she proved her fitness and ability in a few cameos before lockdown to earn an enhanced deal.

“I feel in the best condition of my career,” beamed the 26-year-old. “I came into Brighton from an amateur background, training just twice a week with a game at the weekend. Adjusting, by doing what the professionals did, was a step-up but one I didn’t fear.

I always wanted to test myself in that environment – it was just a case of timing and taking the right opportunity.

“It’s definitely better than being sat at a desk for eight hours a day before going training.” 

A moment of magic on Friday will certainly energise those in Ireland confined to an office longing for some inspiration.

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