Ireland Women’s Under 19’s secured a third straight win in the UEFA European Championships by beating Sweden 2-1 tonight to reach the semi-finals.
Known as ‘The History Girls’, they produced another remarkable display at the UKI Arena, Jessheim, Norway thanks to goals from Savannah McCarthy and Megan Connolly to follow up on the wins over Spain and England.
Roma McLaughlin, from Greencastle – who is still just 16 and the youngest player in the entire tournament – didn’t play tonight but was cheering on from the sidelines.
It wasn’t a great start for Dave Connell’s team as Sweden took the lead after just eight minutes when captain Julia Wahlberg ran onto a through pass and fired in from a tight angle.
Typical of this Ireland team though, they set about responding straight away. With Chloe Mustaki leading by example in midfield, the momentum started to swing towards the girls in green.
Clever running off the ball from Katie McCabe, Sarah Rowe, and Amy O’Connor pulled Sweden away from their central base, while Grace Wright and Keeva Keenan got forward from full-back.
The only thing missing was a measured pass and Connolly provided it on 21 minutes. A free-kick inside her own half didn’t look like being a threat but she picked out McCarthy to head in.
Sweden goalkeeper Zecira Musovic couldn’t get to McCarthy’s looping header, but she did well to deny McCabe two minutes later when the Raheny United attacker unleashed a shot at goal.
With temperatures soaring at pitch level, referee Zuzana Kovacova called for a cooling break on the half hour but it was more of the same from Ireland once play resumed.
A shot from distance from Julia Anna Ekholm tested the alertness of keeper Brooke Dunne, although Connell’s team finished the first half on top. And they set about building on it in the second period.
Sweden, who needed a win by a two-goal margin, tried to score again with Ekholm firing at Dunne again, however Ireland’s organisation held their opponents off and they used the ball well.
A second goal was next on the wishlist and Connolly supplied it on 80 minutes. After McCabe earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, the Cork native curled in an effort via the underside of the crossbar.
Ireland then held on to record a huge win and they will be back in action on Thursday, where they will be prepared to write another chapter in history as the final is only one more game away,
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Dunne; Keenan, O’Connell, McCarthy, Wright; Connolly, Mustaki, Dwyer; Rowe (Shine 58), O’Connor, McCabe (Carson 88).
SWEDEN: Musovic; Ekholm, Bjorn, E Karlsson, N Karlsson; Andersson (Angeldal 76), Hurtig, Wahlberg, Curmark (Okvist h-t); Blackstenius, Olme (Jansson 70).
REFEREE: Zuzana Kovacova (Slovakia)