The Republic of Ireland Women's National team are set to kick off their UEFA Euro 2017 qualifying campaign on Monday evening against Finland who began their campaign with a 1-0 victory over Montenegro.
The Girls in Green will take on Finland in Tallaght Stadium (kick-off 7.30pm) in front of the Setanta Sports live TV cameras and will be hoping to build on their previous qualifying campaign for the FIFA Women's World Cup where they recorded the most points in their history of qualification.
Unfortunately Ireland failed to secure qualification, but they are hungry for success and hope this campaign will mark their first appearance in a major senior competition. Like the senior men’s European championship, the Euros has expanded with the girls in green having a shot at the 16 qualifying places (up from 12).
This provides Ireland with better odds of reaching a major competition, with both the group winners and the best six runners up qualifying automatically alongside the hosts the Netherlands. There is also one remaining place available in a play-off between the remaining two best group runners up.
Ireland have been drawn in Group 2 with Spain, Finland, Portugal and Montenegro. Speaking to ExtraTime.ie earlier this week, goalkeeper and Captain Emma Byrne was looking forward to the campaign with a real sense of optimism.
“I think we have got a great chance of qualifying,” said Byrne, “and I think that's the general mood around the camp. We were delighted with the draw avoiding the big guns. It's definitely our focus, our number one aim is to qualify and top the group. We are well capable of it.
“We’ve played Finland a couple of years ago [and we are] well capable of beating them. We played Spain in the year and they beat us 1-0 but we didn’t perform at all. We know we can do better and take points off them easily. We’re well capable of qualifying for the first time and if we’re going to do it, it’s time to do it now."
For Republic of Ireland senior manager Sue Ronan, she knows that a good start in the campaign will be crucial. “This is a big game for us as Finland are second seeds,” said Ronan speaking to the media earlier in the week.
“If we are to have any chance of qualifying, we will have to finish in front of them or Spain. We have a tough start, as we also play Portugal away in October and are at home to Spain in November so it’s important that we get out of the blocks fast and put points on the board."
Unfortunately, the squad will be without midfielder Dora Gorman who sustained an injury in the build up to the game.
You can follow all the build up and action from the game with ExtraTime.ie.
Republic of Ireland Squad (v Finland)
Goalkeepers: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Grace Maloney (Reading), Niamh Reid Burke (Shelbourne).
Defenders: Megan Campbell (Florida State University); Meabh De Burca (Galway), Karen Duggan (UCD Waves), Niamh Fahey (Chelsea), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna); Grace Murray (Newry City), Sophie Perry (Brighton & Hove Albion).
Midfielders: Diane Caldwell (Avaldsness), Ciara Grant (UCD Waves), Rachel Graham (Shelbourne), Siobhan Killeen (Shelbourne), Aine O’Gorman (UCD Waves), Julie-Ann Russell (UCD Waves).
Forwards: Carol Breen (Wexford Youths), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Katie McCabe (Shelbourne), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City), Stephanie Roche (Sunderland), Clare Shine (Glasgow City).