Republic of Ireland Women's striker Leanne Kiernan played a major part in a strong finish to 2017 - and she's looking to pick up where she left off as Colin Bell's side target qualfication for the 2019 World Cup.

Ireland are in the Azores ahead of two friendly international games against Portugal this week. The first fixture will take place on Thursday at 7pm. 

Bell's charges are unbeaten in their 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying campaign after their gutsy 0-0 draw in the Netherlands in November and will continue those games in April against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium. 

Kiernan played a major role in the draw against the Netherlands, coming on in the second half to help keep the orange wave at bay, and she believes the team can keep that form going, starting with tomorrow's game against the Portuguese. 

The Shelbourne Ladies attacker said: "It was a fantastic year for the team and I was delighted to be a part of it. 

"To end the year with the result against the Netherlands was fantastic and a real confidence boost to the whole team. It shows we can get results against the best teams and that we're right in the qualifying campaign.

"It's important we continue that form into this year and these two games against Portugal will be a great test. It was a long trip out here but we're all looking forward to getting back on the pitch tomorrow."

Bell named three Women's U17 internationals in his squad for the two games as Zara Foley, Amy Boyle-Carr and Eabha O'Mahony were all included in the senior squad for the first time.

All three could make their senior international debuts this week and ahead of the game, Kiernan has backed the youngsters after showing their quality in training.

"It's great to see the young ones coming up into the senior squad and getting the chance to impress.," Kiernan added.

"The standard in training has been extremely good and they've really impressed. It really shows there is plenty of young talent coming through in Ireland and that is really good for the future.

"It will be a difficult game tomorrow as they were at the European Championships ahead of us but we need to be testing ourselves against the best to keep improving. 

"We've got two crucial games in April and these games will be really important for us to continue what has been an excellent qualifying campaign so far."

Republic of Ireland WNT squad

Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (Manchester City), Amanda Budden (Cork City WFC), Amanda McQuillan (Shelbourne Ladies)Defenders: Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Harriet Scott (Reading), Niamh Fahey (Bordeaux), Aislinn Meaney (Galway WFC), Eabha O'Mahony (Lakewood)

Midfielders: Tyler Toland (Maiden City), Denise O'Sullivan (NC Courage), Roma McLaughlin (Shelbourne Ladies), Amy Boyle Carr (Sion Swifts)

Forwards: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Amber Barrett (Peamount United), Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne Ladies), Heather Payne (Peamount United), Isibeal Atkinson (Shelbourne Ladies), Zara Foley (Lakewood), Claire O'Riordan (Wexford Youths WFC), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic)

International Friendlies

January 18: Portugal v Republic of Ireland, Estadio San Miguel, 7pm (6pm local time)

January 21: Portugal v Republic of Ireland, Estadio San Miguel, 5pm (4pm local time)