Although Spain, on maximum points, look set to run away with the qualifying group, Ireland international Áine O’Gorman is still confident that the senior women’s team can make it to the Netherlands for next year’s European Championship finals.
After defeats to Spain and Finland, and victory over Portugal, the Irish lie joint third in their five-team group, with whipping girls Montenegro next up away on April 7, followed by a daunting trip to Spain five days later.
But with a second place finish ensuring either automatic qualification or a play-off, international stalwart O’Gorman believes a place in the finals is still attainable. “I thoroughly believe it and I think all of us believe that we can actually qualify,” she said. “We need to go out to Montenegro and do the business. It’s important that we don’t take that game for granted. We still have to go out there and do a job and make sure we get the three points. The game against Finland (away on June 3) is probably going to be a key one. They beat us at home last year so we need to go out there and get some points.”
Ireland’s recent 5-0 loss to the USA in a friendly in San Diego was hard to take but O’Gorman insists the team can only learn from the experience of taking on the world number ones.
“You’re always looking to test yourself against the best in the world just to see where you’re at,” she says. “It’s never nice to lose by five goals, especially when you give away soft goals, but you can learn from those mistakes as well and just strive to improve.”
O’Gorman continues to learn in her own game, with international manager Sue Ronan having surprisingly opted to deploy the noted UCD Waves striker as a right-back.
“I’d like to be playing up front but if I’m put in the back four I’m willing to take one for the team,” she smiles. “We just needed to tighten things up at the back and I think the manager felt we needed a bit of pace back there. Obviously, as an attacking player, I have the ability to get forward, so that poses a threat as well.” And against Montenegro — who’ve shipped 20 goals in four games — there’s every chance that O’Gorman will be able to give Seamus Coleman a run for his money.
“I’d hope to be bombing forward, playing like a second right winger,” she says. “We’ll have to see what the manager decides to do. We’ll probably be testing a few things out when we’re in Cyprus, nailing down a few more positions.”
O’Gorman regards that Cyprus Cup competition early next month — in which Ireland face Austria, Italy, and Hungary — as “key for us in preparation for the huge qualifiers in April.”
Meanwhile, no chat with the 26-year-old can be complete without reference, once again, to her assist for Stephanie Roche’s Puskas Award-nominated ‘worldie’ two years ago, when both players were at Peamount United.
“It was all in the cross,” O’Gorman quipped. “Obviously Steph’s goal was great to put women’s football on the map in Ireland. Hopefully, it got a few more young girls involved who are going to stick with the sport.” n Áine O’Gorman was speaking at the launch of the Spar FAI Primary School 5s programme. Information about the annual five-a-side tournament can be found at spar.ie and faischools.ie.
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