Vera Pauw hit the ground running when she took over the Ireland job in September 2019, as she maintained the side's winning start to their European Championships qualifying campaign. 

An opening victory over Montenegro on the board when the former Dutch international took the reins, following a transitional period since the departure of former boss Colin Bell, Pauw made an immediate connection with her squad who proceeded to remain unbeaten for four further games. 

With just three of the eight qualifiers remaining, second place in the group looked an absolute certainty, there was an outside chance of finishing top of the table, while the best-placed runners-up reward of automatic qualification was also very much on the cards. 

Granted, two of Ireland’s final three games were against the mighty Germany, who had yet to concede a goal as they romped past any team that stood in their way. 

And while Ireland showed signs of competing at that level in both defeats to the eventual group winners, it was not those valuable six dropped points that would cost Pauw’s side any hope of qualification. 

For it all came down to one, or perhaps two, moments of misfortune in the away game that was sandwiched in between the German double-header that saw the side’s hopes and dreams of reaching their first ever major tournament absolutely shattered. 

And it is not an over-exaggeration to state that Ireland went to Kyiv to take on the second seed side, Ukraine, and absolutely pummelled them from start to finish, playing neat and tidy, attack-minded football from the first minute to the last. 

A Katie McCabe penalty that crashed off the crossbar certainly hampered the side, but it was a most bizarre 35-yard own goal that ultimately ended the dreams of the Irish side. 

Stretching a touch for the ball, the ever-reliable Áine O’Gorman probably put more pace on the back-pass than anticipated, while the direction was also compromised by the heavy touch. 

Goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan should probably have reacted differently, but between defender and stopper, the ball continued into the back of the net and the grateful hosts dug in and held out for an unlikely winner. 

And while Ireland’s hopes of a top-two placing ended that night in the Ukrainian capital, the campaign curtain finally came down on 1 December when Pauw’s side found themselves 2-1 down at half-time against Germany and came out for the final 45 looking to pull an unlikely rabbit out of the hat. 

Of course, it never did materialise, as Ireland’s gung-ho, four-woman attack could not do the near-impossible and Germany eventually put the tie to bed, running out 3-1 winners. 

It brought Pauw’s first campaign to a close and with no contract in place to take the genial Dutch coach further with the international set-up, she admitted after the game that she had to take time to think about her future and the logistics of living and working away from home. 

Three months on and the FAI finally announced that Pauw would, in fact, be taking the team for the next two years in their quest to qualify for their first ever World Cup. 

The road to the Australia and New Zealand-hosted tournament will see Pauw take charge of for the entire campaign for the first time, and having missed out on European qualification, she believes that the team are still improving and will get better before the new campaign begins later this year. 

"Unfinished business? Yes, I think that’s exactly the summary you can make," said Pauw, speaking to RTÉ Sport. 

"I think from all sides, we’re not ready to part [company] and we all want to continue. 

"There is so much more for the players to grasp, and changing now would be a shame for them and for myself. I feel we are just on the way. 

"We were continually growing during the campaign, and this team have not yet reached the ceiling yet." 

Pauw believes that despite suffering disappointment at the end of the Euros campaign, there were only positives to take from the campaign, referring to the fact that the general consensus was that the team were improving in their performances at the end of the group despite the results not going their way. 

The manager believes that Ireland were the only team to improve throughout the coronavirus crisis, and she is convinced that a strong bond has developed amongst her squad and staff, which has created a unique atmosphere. 

And such is the bond between Pauw and her backroom staff, the manager made a point of ensuring that contracts would be offered to Eileen Gleeson and Jan Willem van Ede before she signed her new deal. 

"It’s been a year and a half together and we have hardly seen each other, but we have created a bond with each other that I feel is very special and I think the players feel the same. 

"The enormous professionalism that I felt from my staff, I don’t think I ever felt an atmosphere like that, where they wanted to make a difference and make a change. 

"It’s not just the players, it’s the whole environment. And there is a whole vibe of positivity around the game in Ireland and I really want to be part of it. 

"I said the precondition was that I could keep my backroom staff. I hope that their contracts will be signed as soon as possible, but the deal is done."

And Pauw admits this strong bond proved the deciding factor to return and pick up where she left off with her ever-emerging Ireland squad.

"It was a decision of the heart. Stepping out did not feel good for me. I said after the [Germany] game that I really needed to reflect and talk at home, but my husband sees the enthusiasm and he was the first one to kick my butt and said, 'go back to the FAI, because you cannot leave now'.

"And I feel the same." 

Another pre-condition for Pauw to sign her new two-year deal was to come to an agreement that the squad will have the access to mixed-gender training for home-based players, which the manager believes is vital to help test her players against footballers of similar levels. 

Pauw outlined how her players might improve with access to training with older boys or men’s side, an option that was a previous sticking point as a result of insurance issues. 

The Dutch native sees it as a major step to getting her squad to elite level, which will also help with bringing equality in the game in Ireland over matters like equal pay. 

"The problem is, we do not yet bring in money. Equal pay comes when there is a possibility for equal pay. It is a starting point that you really want to achieve as quickly as possible. What we need is equal approach of opportunity. That's different to being equal.

"There are other issues that are not equal with the men. So let’s focus first on getting equal opportunities for training, for development, because that is something that’s achievable and that is not expensive. 

"You first need to create equal opportunity and perform to equal standards, then the money will come in." 

Most of Pauw’s squad ply their trade outside of the country, however, the manager still believes that the Women’s National League has a huge role to play in the development of the game in Ireland. 

"The Women’s National League is the base of all the players in Ireland of our women’s national team, so its growth is crucial for the growth of the national team. 

"A lot of players have gone abroad and of course they grew further in a professional environment, but the base is the WNL and we will do everything to help that develop. 

"And if we can all work together, like with mixed-gender training, it will continue to improve." 

Looking ahead to the World Cup, Pauw admitted that it will be a tough task to qualify, considering there are less places available for European teams than would qualify for the Euros. She feels however that a favourable draw could actually make the quest less onerous having competed with Germany throughout the last campaign. 

"Eleven countries qualify with one play-off place, while at the Euros it’s 16 teams, so in that sense, it’s already more difficult. 

"But on the other hand, we need to wait for the draw. With Germany, we virtually had no chance, so on this occasion, it could actually be easier."