By David Hennessy
The Irish London City Lionesses Hayley Nolan and Alli Murphy say that the Republic of Ireland are ‘quietly confident’ as they go into their all-or-nothing final European Championships qualifier against Germany on 1 December.
Republic of Ireland had enjoyed a strong campaign and looked set for qualification until they lost 0-1 to Ukraine last month. Now their hopes of qualification rest on getting something from their match against the undefeated Germans in Dublin having been beaten 0-3 by them in September.
Hayley Nolan from Kildare told The Irish World the Ukraine result came as a blow: “Obviously we’re disappointed. We were expecting to go in there and get something out of the game.
“We’re disappointed but I think now if you’re looking at Irish football, the depth in our squad is amazing. The talent is really there. I think it’s gotten so much better than it was five or six years ago. There’s some great young players coming through. I think it’s a really exciting time to be part of the Irish set-up.
“We have Germany on 1 December. We’re going to be quietly confident about it and just see what happens.”
Texan-born Ali Murphy adds: “Germany’s probably the best team in the world right now.
“When we all dispersed back to our clubs it was, ‘Well work hard, make sure you’re individually prepared for when we come in to get ready for Germany’. That’s all we can do at this point.”
Alli received her first call-up to the Irish set-up for the away match against the might of the Germans in September.
However, it was not her first time being selected by Vera Pauw as Murphy had already plied her trade for the Irish boss at Houston Dash. It was Lisa Fallon, then Lionesses boss, who mentioned about her Irish passport to Pauw.
“Vera gave me my first chance in the NWSL and I’m forever grateful for that. When I saw she was with the Irish team I was like, ‘Oh my gosh’.
“She’s Vera. I understand what she’s going to do, how she’s going to coach and that’s made my transition a little easier. I’m just happy to be reunited. She’s really helped me develop my game.”
Alli grew up very proud of her Irish heritage and speaks fondly of time spent with her Limerick grandparents.
“I feel so proud to have been called up just because I see how much joy it brings them and how excited they are for me.
“I loved my time in Ireland. I always get so excited to see them. I’ve loved playing over here in Europe because I get to see them a little more. I think they would have been over here ten times or I would have been over to them if it wasn’t for everything going on.
“It was just awesome and I was just happy to have someone that had known who I was and what I can bring. I’m just honoured any time I get called into camp whether it was just one time or these two times. Every camp, I just want to give all I can. It’s always just an honour.”
Alli and Hayley were signed by Lisa Fallon, the Dubliner who took charge of the club in May but stepped down for personal reasons last month.
Hayley says: “I probably speak for a lot of people when I say we’re very grateful to Lisa for what she has done for the club. In her short time here I think she has definitely progressed the club. She gave me my first pro contract. She opened the door. She gave me the opportunity and all you can do is wish her well.
Lisa’s assistant Melissa Phillips has stepped up to take charge and been getting some good results.
“Obviously it’s a difficult time but Mel stepped in and I think the team’s doing well. We’re just going to push forward.”
Alli adds: “I was so grateful for my time with Lisa. She helped me get noticed by the Irish team. Nothing but praise for her. We just really wish her the best. We were sad but we were also understanding. We’re moving forward and just trying to make the most of the opportunity we have here.
“I think the fact Mel was already here and assistant made it quite easy to transition. She already knew all of us. The team has really picked up with what she’s wanted to go for.”
Hayley continues: “She has a big emphasis on morale and team continuity. I think it’s important when a coach departs you get the whole group together and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and that there is strucuture. I think she’s done quite well.”
The Lionesses beat Leicester 4-1 to end their unbeaten run to the season and turn a corner themselves.
Hayley reflects: “I don’t think a lot of people thought we were going to get anything out of that game. We’re a very confident team. We’ve got huge ability in the team and on Sunday it clicked for us.
Alli adds: “It has been a long time coming. We had all felt it in training and the locker room that it was just right there. We finally made that last push and hopefully we can keep going up.”
Promotion to the WSL remains the goal for the club and the Irish lionesses see no reason why they couldn’t get there.
“Promotion is everyone’s goal, to get into the super league. We’re just going to work hard and take each game as it comes.”
Both only joined the club in the pre-season and say they have been settling in well.
Alli says: “It’s always going to be hard, at least for me, moving from America but I think I’ve gotten used to it. The most important part is football and that transition has been easy and nice.”
Hayley adds: “Everyone was welcoming. They made the transition very easy.”