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Gleeson pulls no punches but backs Ireland to recover

Republic of Ireland head coach Eileen Gleeson didn’t flinch when it came to assessing her team’s performance in a 2-0 defeat to Wales at Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday night.

“Look, there is no excuse,” she said after what was comfortably the worst performance of her eight-game tenure.

“It wasn’t where it should have been and we didn’t do the simple things well enough.

“The girls have been brilliant. There were no levels of complacency. When you are on the pitch you have to find the ability to change the game and calm it down and not make one mistake, a second mistake, a third mistake. If you lose a player, don’t lose her again. It is being accountable for that.

“We were able to affect it a bit better in the second half but we gave ourselves too much to do.”

In a disastrous opening half, Ireland looked stunned both by their own shortfalls and Wales’ superiority. After a fine display against Italy in Florence last Friday, nobody saw such a disjointed showing coming.

It was compounded by injuries to Niamh Fahey [she felt her quad, in the warm-up], and Katie McCabe, who came off in the 73rd minute with a similar injury.

“I think their formation caught us off guard,” admitted Jess Ziu, Ireland’s brightest spark on the night.

“With a new manager we kind of went into the game not knowing whether they’d play with a five or a four – they ended up playing with a five. I do think that caught us off guard, where with Italy we just matched up. Four at the back, four at the back, vice versa. We just didn’t adapt to it quick enough.”

It was a downbeat end to what had been another positive camp. Perhaps Gleeson asked a tad too much of her players, who looked confused and uncomfortable trying to execute a 4-2-3-1 system that never clicked. Wales seemed to have extra bodies on the pitch as they relentlessly harassed their hosts into countless errors while pouring through a leaky rearguard.

A triple substitution and simplification of the system to a 3-5-2 helped, but Ireland never looked like getting back into the contest.

“The first half was not anything we anticipated,” Gleeson admitted. “I felt we didn’t really do the simple things well. Pick up your runner off a corner – that is a simple thing. Take care of the ball. We gave away very cheaply and were slow with our decision making. We were playing passes into crowded areas and gave it away.

“In the second half we were a bit better and you can see that we changed it and brought two strikers on. Kyra [Carusa] and Emily [Murphy] gave us a good partnership. Emily was very good on debut and there is more to come from her. They allowed us to hold the ball up and play a bit better.

“We gave ourselves way too much to do from the first half.”

Ziu picked up the player of the match award but took little consolation from the honour.

The West Ham 21-year-old can reflect on a strong international window form her point of view. She was brave, intelligent and clever against Italy and Wales, offering emphatic evidence that she has fully overcome the ACL injury that wiped a year off her career.

“Yeah it’s a bit of a bittersweet moment for me personally,” she said.

“It was my first 90 minutes in over 16 months I think so that felt really good. I struggled with camp at the end but as a collective and as a team I think we were off the pace. It wasn’t the best performance. I actually don’t think we really deserved to get a result but we can improve.”

Ireland will try and park this result quickly as they look ahead to next Tuesday’s Euro 2025 qualifiers draw in Nyon. They’ll be pitted against some of the best teams in the world and will need to improve enormously on this showing if they’re to have any hopes of competing.

“We’ve had a squad that we feel like, from the Nations League and the Italy game, and even tonight, our bench has been really impactful,” Gleeson reflected.

“You get a clear view. Is someone a better starter? Are they better coming off the bench? Can they make more impact there? Is it a certain time of the game?

“Both of these games have given us a lot of insight [as did the] Nations League. As much as I don’t want to lose, it does give you a lot of information as well. We have to use that going forward.”


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