Leanne Kiernan barely had time to catch her breath before sitting down in Duisburg to face the media via video link-up on Monday morning.

The West Ham striker, who was on the bench for her side's Women's Super League defeat to Manchester United on Sunday, had just flown in to the Republic of Ireland's camp in Germany, where they'll be based until Thursday before travelling to Ukraine for Friday's huge Euro 2022 qualifier [Live on RTÉ 2, 5pm].

These are unprecedented times. All the players were tested for Covid-19 on Sunday; they'll be tested again on Tuesday and then once more on Wednesday.

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With 36 people in the Ireland party, including the back-room staff, the FAI have chartered a plane for Thursday. It's the first time that's been done for an Ireland women's team.

Vera Pauw thanked the association for making the move as her team seek every possible advantage ahead of a colossal clash in Kiev. A point will seal a play-off spot, while a win could help Ireland finish as one of the best runners-up. The Girls in Green have never previously made it to a major tournament.

"It's great for a women's team in Ireland to be getting on a chartered flight," said Kiernan.

"That's a big deal. A few years ago, maybe that wouldn't have happened. 

"We stick to the basics. When it comes to training we do the simple things, stay switched on and kind of become a sponge, listen to everything Vera has to say. We believe in Vera, she can get us through it. We're all behind her."

Leanne Kiernan at Ireland's training base in Duisburg on Monday 

Ireland are living in a strict bubble at the moment, isolated even from the hotel's cleaners, who are not permitted to enter the players' rooms.

The squad is adhering to all regulations which means interaction outside of training is somewhat limited. Still, that hasn't unduly impacted on the mood.

"Everybody has a big smile on their face, we can't complain at all," added Kiernan.

"We're all looking forward to the game, happy to be here and be part of the squad. The players have a group chat that we can chat in on a daily basis. It's nice we can keep in contact with familiar faces.

"We don't have [automatic qualification] out of our minds but obviously you've got to be realistic too. I definitely think we've a great chance of qualification through both ways - the play-offs or going straight through. 

"Let's just hope for the best. We're going into the Ukraine game like it's a cup final. It's a massive game for Ireland. We've never actually qualified for a tournament. This is probably our best chance. We're really going for it."

Kiernan lives with her Hammers team-mate Courtney Brosnan, who looks set to replace the injured Marie Hourihan in goal. Apart from that, Pauw has a fit and healthy squad to choose from as Ireland look to build on a strong second-half performance against the all-conquering Germans. It was a 3-0 defeat that brought many positives. 

"It was a big boost that we got through 45 minutes without Germany scoring on us. We'll go in to the Ukraine game now feeling good defensively and offensively. 

"We have more players who've gone abroad to play in some of the best leagues in the world. We're pretty prepped this time around.  

"There's always a bit of pressure because it's obviously a big game, a historic game. That's why we play... we want to be there on the big days, to get the big results.

"We need to hit the back of the net to win the game - so I'll work on that!"

Watch Friday's crucial UEFA Women's Euro 2022 qualifier between Ukraine and the Republic of Ireland live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 4.30pm, with live updates on rte.ie/sport.