Megan Connolly can't gauge Republic of Ireland's progress just yet

Ireland's Megan Connolly
Ireland's Megan Connolly Ireland's Megan Connolly

THE Republic of Ireland women’s team have already claimed top spot in Group B1 of the inaugural Uefa Nations League with two games to spare – but Megan Connolly firmly believes the real test of progress will come when they go toe to toe with the game’s elite teams next season.

The Irish, guided by interim boss Eileen Gleeson, have strung together four-wins-out-of-four, scoring 13 goals and conceding just one ahead of their two remaining group games against Hungary (h) on Friday and Northern Ireland (a) next Tuesday.

Connolly, however, has put those results in cool perspective.

“It’s hard to gauge [the team’s progress] because, over the past year or two, we have built great foundations in the team, getting to the World Cup under Vera [Pauw] and we developed a lot during that campaign, playing some of the best teams in the world.

“Obviously during this campaign, we are not playing teams of that level,” Connolly noted.

“We’ve had a lot more of the ball, a lot more possession and haven’t been challenged as much, defensively.”

Connolly (26), who can play midfield or central defence, is expected to break the 50th cap landmark against Hungary and Northern Ireland over the coming week.

“We’ve been able to try things out on the pitch attacking-wise and not be punished.

“We’ve had great results, winning the group with two games to go. But it’s hard to tell until we go to Group A and start the European qualifiers.”

Currently playing for newly promoted Bristol City in the Women’s Super League, Connolly has praised the guiding hand of Gleeson since she stepped in for the outgoing Pauw whose contract wasn’t renewed after the World Cup finals in Australia where the Irish exited at the group stages.

“I always respect who is in charge. The staff at the minute have done well to navigate this phase. It was a tough thing to come into. It’s not always on the manager. We can take on responsibility as well, we can be better.

“Eileen has done great and hopefully the manager who comes will take us to next step again.”

Both the men's and women's senior international teams are currently without a permanent manager.