Midfielder Ciara Grant took plenty of positives out of the Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team’s opening game against New Zealand at the Cyprus Cup on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old third year medical student finally played a full 90 minutes at senior level on her way to winning her eighth cap and not even the disappointment of failing to hang on for a famous victory could dampen her happiness at achieving a significant personal milestone.
“I was very happy with my own performance and that fact I finally played for 90 minutes at senior level. I haven’t had many starts either so it was nice to be in from the beginning and be still there at the end,” said the Donegal girl who was part of the 2010 U17 squad that finished runners up in the UEFA U17 European Championship and reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA U17 World Cup
“It was a very hard, tough game. We played three in centre midfield and by the end of the game, when they were chasing it, they had five there which made it hard. I thought we were going to hold out but it wasn’t to be. Still it was a great result.”
Centre midfield is one of the most of the competitive areas in the Women’s National Team and Grant is well aware that there are plenty of options open to manager Sue Ronan.
“There were five players on the bench yesterday who could play in centre midfield in addition to the three who were on the pitch. That’s eight fighting for three places so it is very competitive but it keeps everybody on their toes and pushes us all to keep improving.”
Grant is part of a group of home-based players who gather every Friday night at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown for a training session which involves strength and conditioning as well as ball work. She is already seeing the benefits.
“The football side is very quick and a lot quicker than what we would have been used to before but it helps to get us ready when we move up to international level,” said Grant who created her own little bit of history last November when she became the first women to score a goal at the Aviva Stadium as she helped Raheny United to a 3-2 win over Castlebar Celtic in the FAI Umbro Women’s Cup Final,
“It was nice. I certainly hadn’t thought about it beforehand because I don’t score many goals, I usually make them. But it was great to play in our national stadium and hopefully I’ll get another chance soon.”
After winning the league and cup double with Raheny United last year, Grant has continued her trophy spree in 2014 and has already captained UCD to victory in the WSCAI National Futsal Finals and the WSCAI Premier Division Final and will go for a hat-trick next month when she captains the side in the Inter-Varsities.
Ireland will play their second Group 3 game at the Cyprus Women’s Cup tomorrow when they return to Paralimni for a meeting with South Korea whom they held to a scoreless draw in last year’s tournament and subsequently pipped them for top spot in the group.
The South Koreans drew 1-1 with Switzerland yesterday to leave Group Three delicately balanced and Grant knows Ireland face another tough game against a side currently ranked 16 places above them in the FIFA World Rankings.
“We played them last and we know they are going to be very quick with plenty of movement. They are another quality team,” said Grant.
Ireland manager Sue Ronan plans to freshen up her side for the game as part of her intention to give every member of the squad game-time during this four-game tournament which is part of the squad’s preparation for next month’s FIFA World Cup qualifier against European champions Germany in Tallaght.
“We had a good training session this afternoon which Megan Campbell sat out as a precaution after picking up an ankle injury yesterday. We’ll see how they are in the morning and then pick our team. South Korea are just one place behind New Zealand in the World Rankings so it’s going to be another tough assignment but yesterday’s result and performance has certainly helped our confidence.”
Yvonne Tracy, who missed the New Zealand match after jarring her knee in a collision during training on Tuesday, is receiving treatment daily and making good progress but won’t be fit enough to be considered for selection tomorrow.
SQUAD: Goalkeepers: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Niamh Reid-Burke (Raheny United). Defenders: Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Sophie Perry (Millwall), Meabh de Burca (Galway WFC), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsness), Megan Campbell (Florida State University), Karen Duggan (Peamount United). Midfielders: Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United), Rachel Graham (Raheny United), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Siobhan Killeen (Raheny United), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Dora Gorman (Peamount United), Aileen Gilroy (Castlebar Celtic), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic). Forwards: Fiona O’Sullivan (SC Frieburg), Denise O’Sullivan (Glasgow City), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Áine O’Gorman (Peamount United)