Women’s manager Sue Ronan has gone for a strong blend of youth and experience in her Ireland squad for next Saturday’s friendly against the Basque Country.
The game, which will not be classified as a full international, takes place at 5pm Irish time on Saturday, 10 May, in Azpeitia, a town 16 miles south of San Sebastian.
The match gives players from the Basque Country an opportunity to represent their region at international level and, for Ronan, it provides her with a chance to look at players on the fringes of the Women’s National Team as well as several up and coming prospects.
“This a great match for us to have. We have a lot of quality players who need game-time at international level and we have others who are looking to break into the squad. This is an excellent opportunity for them to stake their claims.
"I had hoped to include several more players from the Bus Éireann Women’s National League but unfortunately they were unavailable due to injury or work commitments. However, they are definitely on our radar and we will look for opportunities to get them involved in the future,” said Ronan.
The match should mark the return to the green jersey of Arsenal’s Niamh Fahey who has missed the last 13 games through injury and unavailability and hasn’t played since the 2-0 defeat by USA in November 2012.
The former international player of the year suffered a cruciate ligament injury last year but has returned to action with Arsenal and looks like strengthening Ronan’s hand for the second half of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
“Unfortunately, next Wednesday’s game against Russia came just a little too quickly for Niamh but the match against the Basque Country is an ideal opportunity to get her back into the fold,” said Ronan.
“She was with us in Cyprus and, although she didn’t play, it was great to her have around the squad again. She is an excellent player and her return to action will be a tremendous boost for us.”
There are also recalls for Raheny United striker Noelle Murray and Canadian-born defender Ciara McCormack who is currently unattached after a season with the Newcastle Jets in Australia.
McCormack won the last of her eight caps in the 2010 defeat away to Holland while Murray, who has just helped Raheny to back to back Bus Éireann National Women’s League titles, was last involved at the 2013 Cyprus Cup.
The squad also includes midfielder Emma Beckett from Watford and striker Lillie Fenlon-Billson from Millwall. Fenlon-Billson has already represented Ireland at U19 level and Ronan is looking forward to linking up with her and Beckett.
“They are both playing in England and this is an ideal opportunity to bring them in and have a look at them. We are always looking to strengthen the squad and hopefully they will give us additional options,” said Ronan.
After last month’s World Cup qualifier against Germany, Ronan flew to Holland to watch the U19s qualify for this summer’s UEFA European Championship finals and she has decided to promote five members of the U19 squad - Savannah McCarthy, Lauren Dwyer, Keeva Keenan, Megan Connolly and Sarah Rowe, who scored the goal against Turkey that sent Ireland to the finals.
“It’s an ideal time to bring them in and introduce them to the senior set-up and it’s a pity that injury prevented me also calling up Katie McCabe and Clare Shine.
Eight of the 2010 U17 squad have already made it to the senior squad and there is just as much potential in the current U19 squad. This will show them what is required at senior level and prepare them better for making the jump after they are finished with the U19s,” said Ronan.
IRELAND SQUAD: Eve Badana (Drexel University), Grace Moloney (Reading), Yvonne Tracy (Unattached), Karen Duggan (Peamount United), Ciara McCormack (Unattached), Savannah McCarthy (Listowel Celtic), Lauren Dwyer (Wexford Youths), Keeva Keenan (Shelbourne), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal), Julie-Ann Russell (Peamount United), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic), Aileen Gilroy (Castlebar Celtic), Rachel Graham (Raheny United), Emma Beckett (Watford), Sarah Rowe (Castlebar Celtic), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Noelle Murray (Raheny United), Lillie Fenlon-Billson (Millwall), Megan Connolly (College Corinthians)