“ABSOLUTELY NOT,” IRELAND star midfielder Denise O’Sullivan responds when she’s asked if the Girls In Green have done enough to nail down second place in their Euro 2021 qualifying group. “We’re not ready yet, we have a long way to go.”
Denise O’Sullivan with Ireland goal-scoring hero Diane Caldwell.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
But the US-based sensation does believe that this is a special group of players that can make history, and become the first-ever Irish senior women’s team to reach a major tournament.
“I think this is the time, to be honest. We have a mixture of youth and experience in there,” she smiles, with a nod to Áine O’Gorman coming out of retirement to win her 101st cap last week. “We have a good squad of players and they’re very hard working.
“That’s the vision: just to get to the Euros. I think we can do it, this is the time.”
O’Sullivan stands in the mixed zone just moments after a hard-fought 1-0 win over Group I rivals Greece at Tallaght Stadium. Delighted with the “badly-needed” three points, the Cork-born midfielder has just put in another outstanding shift, with everything Vera Pauw’s side do going through her. Consistently brilliant, brilliant consistently.
At the halfway point of group qualification, unbeaten Ireland are in second place. Germany — who are strong favourites to finish first — sit top, the Girls In Green are two points behind. More importantly, they’re six clear of the Greeks, and then there’s their other main challengers, Ukraine, who sit further back.
A win over group minnows Montenegro — who Ireland beat 2-0 in their opener before Pauw took over — this week would power them top with a German double-header and big test against second seeds Ukraine yet to come, but above all else, it would put them in pole position to finish second (The group winners and three best second-placed sides qualify automatically, while the six other runners-up head for play-offs.)
O’Sullivan facing Greece on Thursday night.
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Understandably, O’Sullivan is keeping her feet firmly on the ground although there’s no denying that Ireland are on the front foot heading to Budva [Wednesday, 2.30pm, live on RTÉ 2].
“We’re in a very good position but we’re not going to get ahead of ourselves obviously,” she continued. “We’re not taking Montenegro lightly. They’re going to be a good team, they’ll be well organised.
“Ukraine are very good team as well. We ain’t going to take them lightly too, we beat them already but they’re a tough team. And then obviously, Germany are top guns. Our realistic position is to be second, but we’re still not done. We have a lot to go.”