A delighted Republic of Ireland U17 Women’s team manager, Dave Connell, has paid tribute to his players and staff after they topped Group 9 in the first round of the UEFA U17 Women’s European Championship.
The Irish are the seventh side to qualify from the 11 first-round groups and join France, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Czech Republic and Northern Ireland who have also won their qualifying groups.
Those seven will be joined by the winners from the four groups yet to be completed and the five best runners-up.
Three wins from games against Belarus (3-0), Georgia (7-0) and Finland (2-1) saw Ireland take the group with an impressive 100 per cent record and Connell revealed that was their target setting out.
“We set out to win the three games and win the group so it is very nice to have done that.
"We knew going out that a draw against Finland would have been enough to qualify as one of the best losers but that’s a dangerous way to approach any game and I am pleased the girls kept looking for the win and got it,” said Connell.
Full time Ireland 2-1 Finland!! Girls qualify for elite phase top of the group! #COYGIG— FAI (@FAIreland) October 6, 2012
“It took us a while to settle against Finland and we got a break with the own goal. That got us going and we created plenty of chances after that. Lauren Dwyer was off the pitch receiving treatment for an injury when they equalised from a corner and the girls showed great character in going up the pitch and scoring a well worked goal a few minutes later.
“We set out to win the three games and win the group so it is very nice to have done that." - Dave Connell
As well as paying tribute to his players, all of whom played some part in the week’s three games, Connell was also full of praise for his staff.
“The staff did a tremendous job all week and in particular Dave Bell and Laura Cusack who did a lot of good work with the girls on the training pitch.”
The squad will now sit and wait for the other groups to be completed between now and the end of the month and then see what the Second Round draw throws up. Connell is hoping for a rub of the green when the four groups of four teams are drawn.
“Hopefully we can avoid some of the big guns like France and Germany but I don’t think too many of them will want to get us.
“We played a high pressure game against Finland and the girls did a great job in making sure they had little or no room to move. I don’t think anybody would be comfortable playing against that sort of pressure.”
The second round draw will take place in Nyon on 20 November and the second round will take place in Spring 2013 with the semi-final and final scheduled for Switzerland in June.