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Ireland on hunt for points

Wednesday, 4th March, 2020 4:30pm

The Irish senior women's team will hope to continue their unbeaten run in the European Champion Qualifiers when they welcome Greece to Dublin tonight.

Vera Pauw's side have so far recorded wins against Montenegro and Ukraine in Group 1 and a 1-1 draw to Greece last November. Julie Ann Russell will feature on Thursday, having joined the group from her base in Sydney, Australia where she plays with Sydney University. Having previously stepped away from the senior side after emigrating, Russell is back in the Irish side as well as teammate Aine O'Gorman who did a u-turn on retirement.

Speaking on her 30 hour commute and joining forces with O'Gorman once again, Russell told FAI TV: “A part of me was always like 'I wish I was still there and I'd love to be playing' but that was the decision I made so I was happy with that as well. I was always keeping an eye on everything and I'd watch all the games and was always cheering on for the girls, so it's great to be back in the fold and in it this time.

“The commute is a long haul, but I don't find it that bad. I'm a good traveller and I would sleep sound enough so I'm actually okay. The weather is the biggest thing, I'm coming from a lovely summer to freezing cold and storms here!”

As for O'Gorman's return, Russell commented: “She let me know a while before the squad was announced and I was over the moon to see her back in! She's a brilliant player with so much experience and so much more to give so, yeah, I was smiling ear to ear when I found out.”

Ireland rued a missed chance to win three on the bounce when a late Anastasia Spyridonidou goal saw Greece draw with Ireland. Preparation, Russell says, has been key ahead of the clash at Tallaght Stadium.

“I think it was an unfortunate result, we should have won and put them away at an earlier stage in the game. We can't go back in time but I think now we've really prepared for this Thursday and we know what to expect so, given the fact we're still unbeaten, it's all to play for now.”

In 36 years, the Irish women's team have never qualified for the European Championships. The 13th edition will take place in England in 2021. As well as Greece, Ukraine and Montenegro, Ireland's qualifying group includes Germany who are currently top of the table with four wins and twelve points, with Ireland second on seven points. The group winners and the three best runners-up among all nine group qualify directly for the final tournament, while the remaining six runners-up advance to the play-offs. Every point is precious for Ireland who face Germany in April and September.

“We've a really good chance,” continued Russell, “and hopefully we'll be able to get there, and from that then that would be the springboard to rock on and be able to get that big support. Playing, it's always nice with a big crowd, it's really really crucial for us when we're playing to have that 12th man to get behind us. We've had some good crowds recently for the last couple of games, if we can get that again and even more it would be really appreciated by the girls and by the staff and the wider team, so hopefully we'll get it again this time.”

Ireland play Greece tonight at 7.15pm in Tallaght Stadium in Dublin.

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