VERA PAUW HAS named two new players in her Republic of Ireland squad for a friendly against China PR later this month as preparations gear up for a first appearance at the Women’s World Cup this summer.
Ireland will face the AFC Women’s Asian Cup winners in Marbella on Wednesday, 22 February to conclude a 10-day training camp, and they’ll also play Germany behind closed doors next Friday.
While a raft of injuries have ruled out the likes of Niamh Fahey (calf), Chloe Mustaki (groin), Leanne Kiernan (ankle), Savannah McCarthy, Ellen Molloy, Jess Ziu, Aoife Colvill (all ACL), Pauw has been boosted by the return to fitness of Ruesha Littlejohn and Megan Connolly.
Heather Payne is also back in the 26-strong squad after missing last November’s 4-0 friendly win over Morocco.
Durham goalkeeper Naoisha McAloon and Glasgow City defender Claire Walsh are brought in following impressive spells at club level, with first-time call-ups for two players who have received Fifa international clearance: defender Aoife Mannion and forward Marissa Sheva.
Manchester United centre-back Mannion, who last month returned from a cruciate knee ligament injury, has roots in Mayo through her mother and Galway-born father, while Sheva has connections with Tyrone (grandfather) and Donegal (grandmother).
Mannion, 27, represented England from U15 to U23 level and received two senior Lionesses call-ups, but did not feature. 25-year-old Sheva is a Washington-based attacking midfielder.
“We have invited a few new players and of course it’s difficult decisions but we explained in the November camp that we need all our moments to have the best squad in Australia,” Pauw told a press conference this morning.
“Some players are disappointed, but everybody understands what we are facing. The players that are missing now are not out of the squad, but we have to see a few other players.
“This camp will be crucial for these players but we hope to create an environment that they’re free to perform. We will not put players in the squad unless they’re better than what we have.”
Pauw reiterated her stance that it is “virtually impossible” for Molloy and Ziu to make the World Cup, and bemoaned Leanne Kiernan’s “unfortunate” setback.
“Leanne, it looks like her first game will be the end of March. That has already been in the papers, I’m already very careful with private information but it’s in the papers.”
Shamrock Rovers pair Áine O’Gorman and Abbie Larkin are the only home-based SSE Airtricity Women’s Premier Division players in the squad, with 10 Women’s Super League and eight Championship representatives included. The others play in America (three), Scotland (two) and Germany (one).
The Girls In Green will reconvene for another camp in April, understood to be abroad with friendly opposition to be announced in due course.
Preparations will wrap up in Dublin in late June and early July, before the squad fly out to Brisbane. A glamour friendly against France at Tallaght Stadium has been confirmed for 6 July, with another home showdown expected on 22 June.
“All the planning for the World Cup is falling into place,” Pauw added. “Everybody knows we are facing Australia, Canada and Nigeria so we have to be ready for that pressure.”
Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion), Grace Moloney (Reading), Naoisha McAloon (Durham WFC)
Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Diane Caldwell (Reading), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Hayley Nolan (London City Lionesses), Claire Walsh (Glasgow City), Megan Campbell (Liverpool), Áine O’Gorman (Shamrock Rovers), Aoife Mannion (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O’Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Jamie Finn (Birmingham City), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City), Isibeal Atkinson (West Ham United)
Forwards: Amber Barrett (Potsdam Turbine), Heather Payne (Florida State University), Kyra Carusa (London City Lionesses), Abbie Larkin (Shamrock Rovers), Marissa Sheva (Washington Spirit).
– Additional reporting from The42 Team