Republic of Ireland 0-2 Netherlands

European champions Netherlands inflicted a first defeat of the 2019 World Cup qualifying campaign on the Republic of Ireland women’s team tonight in front of a record attendance of 4,047 at Tallaght Stadium .

Goals in the first half from Lineth Beerensteyn and Sherida Spitse’s penalty made the difference between the group’s joint-leaders on a night Ireland couldn’t repeat the heroics of last November’s scoreless draw in Nijmegen.

Next up for the Irish is a double-header against Norway in June when four points are likely to be needed to secure a play-off for next year’s tournament in France.

Republic of Ireland boss Colin Bell is known for showing faith in youngsters and he made a big call in throwing in Amy Carr-Boyle into the side.

The Donegal native only turned 17 in January and sufficiently impressed the boss to get the nod in midfield ahead of Ruesha Littlejohn in the only change to the side that started Friday’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.

She slotted in beside Megan Connolly and Denise O’Sullivan as Bell understandably set up his team in far more defensive mode to the game against the group’s basement side.

Niamh Fahey slipped back to replicate the five-player backline that worked so effectively in the stalemate between the nations six months ago.

The Dutch had failed to convert any of the 32 attempts they created on goal in Nijmegen and they were once again frustrated until a mistake led to their crucial breakthrough after 11 minutes.

Bell had warned his team against committing any silly errors and he was left roaring from the bench at Katie McCabe when his captain got dispossessed midway in her own half by Renate Jansen.

The full-back played a one-two with Jackie Groenen down the right before picking out Beerensteyn with a cross and the Bayern Munich striker outjumped Diane Caldwell to nod high into the corner.

Against waves of Dutch possession, Ireland were struggling to utilise their main attacking ploy of Leanne Kiernan’s pace.

It took until the 20th minute for the Cavan teenager to stretch the visitors and even when she latched onto a pass from right-full Sophie Perry-Campbell, defender Dominique Janssen recovered brilliantly to clear for a corner.

That was the closest Ireland came to threatening the visitors in the opening half as the superpowers extended their lead three minutes later, albeit in controversial circumstances.

When Caldwell got caught out from a long ball in tracking the run of Danielle van de Donk, she tugged the Arsenal player’s jersey but the infringement occurred on the edge of the box.

French referee Stephanie Frappart saw it differently, pointing to the spot and allowing captain Sherida Spitse send Marie Hourihan the wrong way with the penalty.

That concession sapped the confidence of Ireland and it was one-way traffic for the Dutch until the break.

Hourihane was beaten again by Spitse again, yet relieved the see the skipper’s ferocious shot from 25 yards ping off the inside of the post and bounce back into play.

Ireland were also saved by the assistant’s flag when Shanice van de Sanden headed in what seemed to a perfectly legitimate goal.

Amber Barrett – Ireland’s match-winner on Friday – was introduced at the break for Carr-Boyle and added some impetus up front.

Although the Girls in Green mustered some forays on the counter-attack, they couldn’t work Sari van Veenendaal and instead it was the Dutch creating more clearcut openings.

Hourihan managed to keep the losing margin down, firstly by tipping Janssen’s curling free-kick into the crossbar and then foiling her Gunners teammate van de Donk with a save from point-blank range.

Ireland battled gamely for the remainder, matching their illustrious opponents for workrate without producing any end product of note. At least there will be easier tests ahead. 

Rep of Ireland (5-3-1-1): Marie Hourihan (Brighton & Hove Albion); Sophie Perry-Campbell (Brighton & Hove Albion), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Bordeaux), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Karen Duggan (Peamount Utd); Megan Connolly (Florida State), Amy Boyle-Carr (Sion Swifts), Katie McCabe (Arsenal); Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage); Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne).

Subs: Amber Barrett (Peamount Utd) for Boyle-Carr (h/t), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic) for Connolly (73 mins).

Netherlands (4-3-3): Sari van Veenendaal (Arsenal); Renate Jansen (FC Twente), Dominique Janssen (Arsenal), Stephanie van der Gragt (Ajax), Siri Worm (Everton); Jackie Groenen (Frankfurt), Sherida Spitse (Valarenga), Danielle van de Donk (Arsenal); Shanice van de Sanden (Lyon), Lineth Beerensteyn (Bayern Munich), Lieke Martens (Barcelona).

Subs: Jill Roord (Bayern Munich) for van de Sanden (69 mins).

Referee: Stephanie Frappart (FRA)

Attendance: 4047