Megan Connolly signals Ireland’s intent as they face a crucial Euro 2022 qualifier with Germany on Saturday.
THAT IRELAND CAN avoid defeat against Germany in Saturday’s Euro 2022 qualifier seems improbable, given the Germans’ record in the competition so far reads four wins from four; 31 goals scored and none conceded.
Megan Connolly, however, arrived into camp in Duisburg this morning fresh off an improbable result of her own, as her Brighton side yesterday drew 0-0 with star-studded Manchester City.
Connolly isn’t the only Irish player energised by that game, either: she was replaced at half-time by Denise O’Sullivan, while Rianna Jarrett led the line.
“It was a great result for us, and it was great to have two other girls on the team here who experienced that. Going into that game we were underdogs, as we will be on Saturday,
“Our backs were against the wall, but it was about the trust we had in each other, that the person to my right and the person to my left is going to do their job, so I am going to do my job.”
Trust will be a vital quality against Germany on Saturday, says Connolly, as Ireland bid to cling on to top spot in Group I. Ireland are a point clear of Germany having played an extra game, though have their toughest fixtures left: Germany away is followed by a trip to Ukraine and then the home joust with the Germans.
“Vera and the staff will have a game plan that we will go through this week, and it’s about having to trust that, and having trust in the staff and the players around us; that we are all on the same page, that we will prepare as best we can”, says Connolly.
Top spot in the group guarantees qualification for the pandemic-delayed European Championships in England in 2022, with the three-best ranked runners-up qualifying automatically, too. The next six runners-up head for the play-offs.
It would be a major surprise if Germany didn’t top the group, but ahead of Saturday’s game, Connolly is mixing pragmatism and belief.
“We want to go out there, perform well, and put in the kind of performance to make everyone proud, and come away with something. We won’t go there to lie down and let the Germans walk all over us. That’s not on anybody’s mind. If that was on someone’s mind they wouldn’t be here.
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“I think a draw is a great result for us. Anything from that game is a good result. You can go in with belief and hope but you have to be realistic.
“We can’t go in there thinking We’ll beat the Germans 5-0 as that’s not our aim. Our aim is to get a result. Obviously we want to win but we have to be realistic. Against a team of that standard, I would take a draw. That would give us a great boost in the group. You have to take everything you can.”
It’s an enormous challenge for Ireland, but Connolly is among those in the squad sharpening their wits in England’s improving Women’s Super League, which has been graced by a raft of star arrivals this summer.
“I think it’s amazing to see the calibre of players coming to the league, and to a number of different teams. It is a big reflection on the league that those players want to come here, they see how big it can get.
“Obviously [last season] ended, and not in the best way, while it was really picking up. You got a taste of what it could be like when everyone is invested in it.
“Now every week we are playing against some of the best players in the world and that can only make us better. Brighton are not recognised as one of the top teams so we are generally going to be considered as underdogs. So you want to relish those moments playing against the best teams and the best players. I think it’s very good for the league for all these players coming in and raising the profile even more.”
The Irish squad have assembled in Germany ahead of Saturday’s kick-off, with Keeva Keenan added to the squad as cover.