Colin Bell has said he won’t consider selecting Stephanie Roche for Ireland’s back-to-back World Cup qualifiers against Norway in June.
The Sunderland striker originally suffered a tibia fracture in the September victory over Northern Ireland but her time on the sidelines has been prolonged by setbacks and complications during her recovery.
Now, the women’s team manager has confirmed that the crunch games against the Norwegians will come too soon for one of the most high-profile members of the Irish squad.
“She won’t be involved in the Norway camp,” Bell said yesterday.
“I can’t include a player who has played once since September. This is one of the things I am trying to change around the squad. You have to qualify to play every time — just because you’ve been there all the time doesn’t mean it guarantees you will be there the next time. The girls have realised that.”
However, the manager did not rule out the possibility of a return to action for Megan Campbell in time for the final World Cup qualifier at home to Northern Ireland in August, although he stressed that it was of vital importance that the Manchester City defender — who suffered her own injury nightmare when rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament while on Champions League last November — does not risk a premature return to action.
“She spent a couple of days with us at the last camp,” he said. “She is very sensible and has great facilities at Manchester City. It has to be a realistic decision to come back, we don’t want to rush it. She has made a massive improvement since joining Manchester City. On her day she is one of the best players in the English league and she is much more than a long throw, although that is a weapon. I’m hoping she can be part of this team for the next five to eight years.”
On the daunting task which still faces second-placed Ireland if they are secure a first-ever spot at the finals in France next year, Bell said: “If you know a bit about women’s football and analyse it then you really should come to the conclusion that in this group we have no chance: That’s a fact. Holland and Norway are two world-class teams with world-class players and only one team qualifies directly. But I never accept anything like that.
“So we have to work even harder and maybe do something extraordinary.
“If we don’t do it, that would be normal. If we do, it would be a sensation.”
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