Tonight’s World Cup qualifier in Nijmegen could feature six Arsenal players with Ireland’s Gunners pair Louise Quinn and Katie McCabe hoping to have the measure of their Dutch comrades.
Both nations have claimed victories in their opening pair of fixtures, affording Colin Bell’s Girls in Green a level of confidence they will need facing the reigning European champions in their backyard.
Such was the fervour created by the Dutch women’s summer tournament victory on home soil that their opening two games of this campaign against Norway and Ireland sold out within a few hours. The Irish won’t just be trying to shackle some of the finest players in the world but also silence the Goffert Stadium, which will be full to its 12,000 capacity.
It’s a good thing then that four of the Dutch players, three definite starters, are familiar to a couple of Irish mainstays. Captain Katie McCabe maintained a long Irish tradition at Arsenal by joining in December 2015 while Quinn was offered a deal in May after her club, Notts County, withdrew from the English league.
Quinn, the 27-year-old Blessington-born centre-back, believes the type of dominance Arsenal enjoyed in the noughties, when backboned by Irish women Emma Byrne, Ciara Grant and Yvonne Tracy, won’t be replicated by any team, given the investment by the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City in their women’s sections.
That hasn’t stopped some of Europe’s top talent gravitating to the London club and the Dutch fraternity have been to the fore. Striker Vivianne Miedema is the highest profile of the quartet despite being just 21. A clutch of players in the Irish camp first came to know of Miedema’s quality four years ago when her hat-trick in a 4-0 victory sent them tumbling out of the U19 European Championships at the semi-final stage.
Back then, she was a full-timer at Bayern Munich and now her journey has taken in Arsenal, where she lines out alongside compatriots Dominique Janssen, Danielle van de Donk and goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal.
Quinn is the sole Irish representative at Arsenal at present, as 21-year-old McCabe is just about to return from a loan stint at Glasgow City.
“All four of the Dutch players at Arsenal are class acts,” said Quinn, who will win her 60th cap tonight.
“They’re great girls too but they haven’t talked much about this game. I’ve been trying to get inside their heads for the last while but they haven’t taken it well.
“To be fair, they know it will be a tough game. All the top nations realise that to beat Ireland, they have to be really on their game. We all know that Holland have all those strengths — they’re very open about what style they play — but there are weaknesses there for us to exploit too.
“Katie and Sophie Perry are excellent with their set-piece deliveries and we’ve a fair bit of pace up front with Amber Barrett and Leanne Kiernan.”
McCabe, too, doesn’t feel the need to adopt an inferiority complex. “People should know never to write off the Irish,” she said..
“We’ve become very difficult to beat and do well from set-pieces through the height in our team. Facing the European champions away from home is tough but it’s just another game to us. And that means looking for three points.”
M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry (Brighton and Hove Albion), L Quinn (Arsenal), D Caldwell (SC Sand), H Scott (Reading); N Fahey (Bordeaux), K Duggan (UCD Waves); L Kiernan (Shelbourne), D O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), K McCabe (Glasgow City); A Barrett (Peamount Utd).
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