Sligo’s Emma Hansberry has retained her place in the Irish senior women’s squad for the crucial European Championship qualifiers against Finland and Montenegro early next month.
The midfielder was an integral part of the Wexford Youths team that claimed the Women’s National League title last Sunday with a play-off defeat of Shelbourne.
She was also named in the team of the season for the league.
Having made her senior international debut in the Cyprus Cup tournament earlier this year, the IT Carlow student was also part of Irish squad for the qualifiers against Spain and Montenegro.
The Irish now face Finland away on Friday, June 3, before hosting Montenegro in Tallaght on Tuesday, June 7.
Julie-Ann Russell, a sister of Sligo Rovers star John Russell, is also part of the Irish squad.
In what is a crucial period for the Republic of Ireland, manager Sue Ronan has emphasised that the aim for the two games is six points. “Right now all the focus is on Finland because it’s the first game, and therefore the most important. But we are at the stage in the group where we can’t afford any more slip-ups, so maximum points from these two games is the target. I have named a squad of 21 players, although Karen Duggan is unavailable for the first game due to suspension. She was recently voted Continental Tyres Women’s National League Player of the Year by her peers, which shows how much she has progressed in the last 12 months and the form she’s in, so she will be a huge lose to us. Jessica Gleeson also misses out due to an injury picked up last weekend playing for Wexford Youths, but I’ve replaced her with team-mate Lauren Dwyer, who had a superb game in the league decider and has been consistently good over the last few months for Youths.”
Discussing the players that have been recalled to the squad, Ronan added, “We welcome back Megan Connolly who was unavailable for the last camp due to college commitments in the USA. Also returning is Savannah McCarthy who’s participation in the Under 19’s Elite Phase prevented her being involved last time out. If that tournament hadn’t clashed with our games, she would have been in the senior squad, but for her development at the time it was better to have her with the 19’s, who while they didn’t qualify for the Finals, did really really well.”
With Finland one place and three points ahead of the Girls in Green, Ronan has targeted this game since their opening day defeat to the same opposition. “The home fixture against Finland was the first game of the campaign so to get off to a bad start was a big disappointment for everyone involved. When we analysed that game, we all agreed that we didn’t do ourselves justice on the night, we had created some really good chances to score but didn’t take them, then conceded two soft goals. But ever since we have been looking forward to the away fixture knowing we had to win to stay in the group. And while the players took confidence from our victory over Finland in the Cyprus Cup earlier this year, they also know that a friendly tournament is different from a competitive game, so will not underestimate them in any way.” said Ronan.
The club form of players in the squad has been encouraging in the lead up to the players congregating in Dublin. As well as Karen Duggan being named Continental WNL Player of the Year, Aine O’Gorman claimed the Golden Boot, and Hansberry and Meabh De Burca made the Team of the Season alongside them. In England Niamh Fahey was also named in the Team of the Season, while Emma Byrne and Katie McCabe were part of Arsenal Ladies’ squad that won the FA Cup. Just last month, Denise O’Sullivan made her debut in the USA for Houston Dash and has already opened her goalscoring account.
This form is something Ronan is looking to build on over the next two games, “. It’s great to see the girls get these accolades at club level and I’m hoping they can transfer the confidence they’ve gained from those successes onto the international stage when they come into camp next week. There’s already a fantastic bond between the players in the squad so I’ve no doubt they’ll be delighted with the successes their team-mates have had at club level. That bond can only help us on the pitch as we strive to get the points we need to keep our challenge going right up until the end of the campaign. The players are certainly focussed and determined to pick up six points from these two games.”
Republic of Ireland WNT Fixtures
Finland vs Republic of Ireland, June 3, 18:05 (Live on Setanta Ireland)
Republic of Ireland vs Montenegro, June 7, 19:00, Tallaght Stadium
Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team Squad:
Emma Byrne (Arsenal Ladies FC)
Grace Moloney (Reading Ladies FC)
Niamh Reid-Burke (Shelbourne Ladies FC)
Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United DFF)
Sophie Perry (Brighton and Hove Albion WFC)
Meabh De Burca (Galway WFC)
Savannah McCarthy (Glasgow City FC)
Niamh Fahey (Chelsea Ladies)
Jetta Berrill (UCD Waves FC)
Lauren Dwyer (Wexford Youths WFC)
Denise O’Sullivan (Houston Dash)
Diane Caldwell (FC Koln)
Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City FC)
Julie-Ann Russell (UCD Waves FC)
Emma Hansberry (Wexford Youths WFC)
Aine O’Gorman (UCD Waves FC)
Megan Connolly (Florida State)
Katie McCabe (Arsenal Ladies)
Stephanie Roche (Sunderland AFC)
Fiona O’Sullivan (California Storm)
Karen Duggan (UCD Waves FC)