The Republic of Ireland women’s team will finish off 2012 in the early hours of Sunday morning when they face Olympic champions USA at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
On Wednesday night in Portland, Oregon, they lost 5-0 with American striker Alex Morgan hitting a first half hat-trick to bring her 2012 total to an astonishing 27 goals and show why she has been shortlisted for the FIFA World Player of the Year Award.
The games are part of the USA’s celebration tour following their Olympic success at Wembley during the summer and they will have three more games in December, all against China, before they finish their 2012 season.
"They (USA) are without doubt the best team in the world at present and we saw why on Wednesday night" - Sue Ronan
The game in Arizona marks the end of the year for Sue Ronan’s squad and she admits to being delighted that it’s another opportunity to test her players against the best team in the world.
She said: “It’s been great to be involved in two games like this in front of large crowds and a live coast-to-coast television audience.
"It’s only by going in against the best that you can really find out how good your players are and see what they need to do to get better.
“The American team are phenomenal. The match in Phoenix will be their 29th game this year so they are more like a full-time professional club team than an international side.
"They are without doubt the best team in the world at present and we saw why on Wednesday night. They just wear you down, force mistakes and then punish you.
“It is a great experience for our players and while I would have liked the score line to have looked a little better I was very pleased with the way the girls played and the likes of Denise O’Sullivan, who is only 18, did not look out of place in that sort of company.”
With a new professional women’s league due to kick-off in America next season, there could be opportunities in the making for some of the Irish squad from this week’s games and Ronan will be telling them to go out and enjoy themselves tomorrow night.
The team spent yesterday travelling from Oregon to Arizona and had a couple of training sessions today in temperatures that were in the high 20s.
Megan Campbell, Denise O’Sullivan and Niamh Fahey are the three main injury doubts.
Ronan intends to try and ensure that all her squad get game-time over the two matches, though she admits it will be hard to take off veteran goalkeeper Emma Byrne at any stage given the crucial role she is playing this week.
“Emma is by far our most experienced player here this week and has been an excellent captain. She actually played very well the other night and made a lot of good saves,” said Ronan.
The match kicks-off at 19:30 local time tomorrow night, which is 02:30 Irish time on Sunday morning.
Republic of Ireland Squad: Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Eve Badana (Drexel College), Yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Louise Quinn (Peamount United), Megan Campbell (Raheny United), Sophie Perry (Chelsea), Mary Therese McDonnell (Chicago Red Stars), Meabh de Burca (Amazon Grimstad), Shannon McDonnell (Unattached), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Julie Ann Russell (Peamount United), Aine O'Gorman (Doncaster Belles), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad), Fiona O'Sullivan (SC Freiburg), Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC).