Letterkenny native Ciara Grant came on for her third Republic of Ireland senior cap as the girls in green got off a winning start in Group C of the Cyprus Cup on Wednesday in Larnaca when they defeated Northern Ireland 5-1.
UCD Medicine student Ciara, from Orchard Grove, is on the books of Raheney United in Dublin. She made her debut last year against the United States and in Cyprus, came off the bench with 12 minutes to go.
It was biggest win in nine years by the Senior Women’s Team. Aine O’Gorman had a hand in the first goal after 11 minutes when a corner was half-cleared and, after receiving the ball from Denise O’Sullivan, she whipped in a first time left-footed cross to the back post where it was met by Diane Caldwell and she smashed the ball right-footed into the far corner.
The Northern Ireland goal led a charmed life before they eventually conceded a second goal on 26 minutes as a move straight off the training ground resulted in O’Gorman’s corner being firmly headed home by defender Louise Quinn for her second international goal.
The Republic could have been further than 2-0 ahead by half-time and Caldwell went close just after the break but they were rocked on 58 minutes when Northern Ireland debutant Alana McShane scrambled the ball home from a corner.
However, the Republic responded magnificently to that set-back and finished very strongly over the last half-hour with Megan Campbell drilling home a free-kick from the edge of the box to restore their two goal advantage after 70 minutes.
Six minutes later Shannon Smyth took advantage of hesitation in the Northern Ireland defence to set up a chance for herself which she executed with a clever lob of Higgins in the Northern Ireland goal.
The Republic saved the best until last when they scored a contender for goal of the season two minutes into injury time. The move began when substitute Ciaran Grant won possession off a Northern Ireland throw-in to kick-start a move that involved 11 passes before Stephanie Roche flicked the final ball into the path of Ruesha Littlejohn and she hammered it into the top corner to give Ireland their biggest victory since the 5-0 win over Malta in a European Championship qualifier in 2004.
Ireland’s next game is on Friday against South Africa who lost 2-0 to South Korea in the other first Group C game.
Republic of Ireland: Emma Byrne (c) (Arsenal), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United DFF), Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Megan Campbell (Raheny United), Meabh de Burca (Amazon Grimstad FK), Diane Caldwell (Alvadsnes FC), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Denise O’Sullivan (Cork Women’s FC), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad FK), Aine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United). Subs: Stephanie Roche (Peamount United) for Lawlor (72), Ciara Grant (Raheny United) for O’Sullivan (78), Seana Cooke (Raheny United) for de Burca (80), Noelle Murray (Raheny United) for Tracy (87)