Many a fixture is drilled to be hyped up with consequences so far reaching in terms of a team’s growth, but often the real influential outcomes of those games don’t surface until further down the line and become crisp with 20/20 hindsight- the matches that made the Irish WNT.
One such example is Ireland’s 3-2 victory over Australia in 2021, a friendly that snapped the cycle of days of doom and gloom to propel the Republic of Ireland to compete right up amongst the world’s highest ranked sides.
Prior to the game which took place in early September 2021, Vera Pauw had amassed a seven-game losing streak, extending all the way back to March 2020. However these games were all against higher quality opposition in an attempt to raise the performance bar to that standard, and this game aainst the world-renowned Matildas was to be no exception.
With Australia having come off the back off a 4th place finish in the Olympics that same year, they were ranked 22 spots higher than Ireland in the world rankings at the time.
Poster girl Sam Kerr was set to receive her 100thcap at the Tallaght Stadium event and superstar Mary Fowler, who has Irish connections back to her grandfather Kevin Fowler from Ballymun, Dublin, was looking to burst onto the scene, but the Girls In Green ensured they ruined the party.
The game itself
Newly recruited Lucy Quinn had previously donned an England football shirt back in 2017 but was eligible for Ireland given the fixture she had played in was a beach football event. With her family connections to Sligo and a passport secured, she was in superb form from the word go.
Reflecting on her inaugural game recently Quinn joked how she "blacked out" with the excitement at one point and that she never expected to kick on to the heights she now has for the Girls in Green.
"I think I just wanted to come into the squad and thought I'd be a squad player and on the fringes" she says.
"It was a massively talented group and I knew that coming into it straight away, but to be able to sit here now, be an established and quite senior member of the group when you look at some of the young talent that's coming through. Yeah it's not something I ever imagined back then."
A crowd of 3,814 witnessed her strike and convert a freekick just four minutes into the game, although it eventually went down as an own goal as opposed to a debut triumph seeing as it deflected off goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold (and the post) before hitting the back of the net.
"Katie, I have to give her the credit on that" Quinn says.
"She turned to me and kind of jokes like, ‘Oh, do you want to take this and get a goal on your debut?’ and then it went in!
"Obviously it went down as an own goal, but still, I know it was me and you know, I'm still going to claim it. So, yeah, like, fair play to her for letting me have that one, it’s just a memory that I'll never forget."
18-year-old Fowler did indeed make an entrance of her own when she caught Courtney Brosnan off guard to equalize on 15 minutes, before Denise O'Sullivan reclaimed the lead through her own stroke of luck closing in on half an hour gone.
Fowler again featured on the scoreline after halftime, but it was Ireland stalwart and centre back hero turned heading expert Louise Quinn who would head home the late winner. She picked up the Player of the Match award as a result, shining brightest amongst a myriad of starring displays.
The impact of beating the Matildas
While in the moment the triumph felt big, looking back it was exceedingly seismic. Yes, it was only a friendly, but it broke the cycle of both losing results and doubt in the mind of the WNT, proving to themselves that they can compete up there with the best of them.
The next fixture was to be their opening 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup qualification game, and some would say the rest is history.
Now scheduled to play Australia once again on 20 July, this time in the opening fixture of the tournament, their last clash will have Vera Pauw’s army daring to dream.
Republic of Ireland: Brosnan; Fahey, Louise Quinn, McCarthy; O’Gorman, McCabe; Finn (Caldwell 90), O’Sullivan, Barrett (Farrelly, 60); Payne (Kiernan 90), Lucy Quinn (Whelan 72).
Australia: Arnold (Williams HT); Polkinghorne, Kennedy (Checker HT), Nevin (Beard 68); Yallop (Gant 68), Logarzo (Wheeler 53), Cooney-Cross, Catley; Gielnick, Kerr, Fowler.