‘It’s a reward for her hard work’ – Ireland boss Vera Pauw delighted to recall ‘fantastic’ Stephanie Roche

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Ireland “don’t have time to experiment” ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifier away to Georgia, manager Vera Pauw has said.

he Ireland manager expressed her frustration about the timing of the rescheduled game, after the Tbilisi leg was postponed last September. The majority of the squad last played for their clubs over five weeks ago.

A nine-day training camp in Turkey has been organised to get the players up to match fitness, where they will also take on the Philippines in a friendly on June 19.

“It’s a very mixed up group in terms of fitness,” Pauw said, unveiling her 27-player squad in Abbotstown today.

“The players stopped their competitive matches from May 5 and some on May 8. Most of them could only do running programmes. It’s been a bit frustrating organising the training sessions. In a normal season, they would end at the end of May, but the league stopped at the beginning of May because of the Euros, so it’s a double misfortune in that sense.

“We are ready now to step into a very, very difficult programme, because we need to get them all on the same level. We need to find out who is ready. It’s not about experimenting, it’s about what we need at this moment and that’s what we need to find out this week.”

Peamount United’s Stephanie Roche has been recalled to the squad for the first time since November 2019. Roche, who has 55 caps to her name, was praised by Pauw for her determination in getting back into the side.

“I had to disappoint her many times,” said Pauw.

“Stephanie is a fantastic person and a fantastic athlete. I’ve always explained to her where she stands. I was always honest, and she was always honest to me. It’s a reward for her hard work. She was always there at the home-based sessions, always there to have extra training, always there at any moment.”

After the training camp in Antalya, Pauw’s side take a short flight to Tbilisi and face Georgia who they beat 11-0 in Tallaght Stadium in November. Denise O’Sullivan hit a hat-trick that evening, as Ireland earned a record victory. That said, the Ireland manager won’t be taking anything for granted this time around.

“It’s not a walkover, not at all,” Pauw continued.

“Every piece of the puzzle must fall in place like it did in our first game against Georgia. It was a combination of them not expecting us that good and us playing an exceptional game.

“I think that combination was there. We will have one game in our legs, so we need to see where we get. The first aim is winning and if we get goals, then of course we keep on going. But the first aim is to get those three points.”

Diane Caldwell returns to the team from injury, while Durham goalkeeper Naoisha McAloon earned a first call-up. Wexford Youths’ Aoibheann Clancy and Ellen Molloy are both ruled out due to their Leaving Certificate exams. Savannah McCarthy, Megan Campbell, Aoife Colvill, Rianna Jarrett, Leanne Kiernan and Kyra Carusa all miss out through injury.



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