The Republic of Ireland missed out on a place in the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship final after losing 4-0 to the Netherlands in Mjondalen, Norway.
Dave Connell’s team hardly had a chance to settle into the game when they fell behind following a shot from Vivianne Miedema after she controlled a long pass from Danique Kerkdijk.
There were only five minutes on the clock when the ball somehow trickled over the goal line. But Ireland rallied back with Lauren Dwyer shooting just wide of the target after a superb solo run.
It was clear that the Netherlands were a top-class team, although the work-rate of Ireland’s players was hugely impressive as they closed down space and hassled their opponents at every opportunity.
The industry of Clare Shine also saw Ireland move into goal-scoring positions with the Raheny United striker twice firing shots over the crossbar after initially losing her marker in open play.
The Netherlands, however, were quick breaking forward and Miedema set up Jeslynn Kuijpers for their second goal on 34 minutes. Picking up a slide-rule pass, she blasted in off the inside of the post.
Trailing 2-0 at half-time, it got worse for Connell’s team on 48 minutes when Miedema got her second goal of the game when she converted from close range after good play by Kuijpers.
It was 4-0 to the Netherlands on 55 minutes when Miedema completed her hat-trick. Controlling a high ball, she turned past her marker before drilling a low shot past goalkeeper Brooke Dunne.
Substitute Katie McCabe did give Ireland hope of completing another remarkable comeback as she twice went close with efforts, but she just couldn’t find the finish required.
Despite losing this game, and missing out on a place in the final where the Netherlands will meet Spain, the achievements of this Ireland team should not be underestimated as they made history.
Connell will have 12 members of his squad eligible for the next campaign and the performances of these girls will surely give women’s football around the country a massive lift.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Dunne; Keenan, O’Connell, McCarthy, Wright; Mustaki (Nolan 60); Dwyer (McLaughlin 66), Connolly; Rowe, Shine, O’Connor (McCabe 50).
NETHERLANDS: Vreugdenhil; Akkerman, Janssen, Kerdijk, Kuikstra (Peels 75); Mourmans (Bruinenberg 77), Roord, Kaagman; Kuijpers, Miedema (Beerensteyn 84), Strik.
REFEREE: Marija Kurtes (Germany).