Uefa Women’s Nations League B1: Northern Ireland 1-6 Republic of Ireland
A real rivalry should have ebb and flow, uncertainty of outcome – but instead the Republic of Ireland women continued their utter domination of their Northern Ireland counterparts. To paraphrase an old football saying, this was women against girls.
Two goals inside a minute before the break, from Lucy Quinn and Heather Payne, ensured 10 wins out of 10 over the course of half a century and two more goals followed in the first five minutes of the second half – from Kyra Carusa and captain Katie McCabe - as the hosts suffered a humiliating hammering.
Watching those bursts of concession, former NI boss Kenny Shiels might have allowed himself a wry smile.
A fifth Republic goal followed on the hour mark from defender Louise Quinn, to reach a record tally of goals in this fixture and ensure the Republic finished the group in style along with a 100 per cent record. Another back, Caitlin Hayes, slid in a sixth from a corner kick in the 86th minute.
Substitute Kerry Beasttie did at least score NI’s first goal against their neighbours for almost 32 years, but that 74th minute effort was scant consolation.
With Hungary winning well against Albania, they took second spot and the promotion play-off place.
NI manager Tanya Oxtoby made three changes from the 4-0 win out in Albania, with Rebecca Holloway coming at left back, Caragh Hamilton at right midfield and Nadene Caldwell into central midfield. Danielle Maxwell, Demi Vance, and Joely Andrews were the players to drop to the bench.
Eileen Gleeson, in what is set to be her last match as interim Republic boss, made two alterations, notably recalling Lucy Quinn up front to partner Kyra Carusa, with Jamie Finn coming into midfield, replacing Isibeal Atkinson and Tyler Toland.
The formations meant that home defensive midfielder Chloe McCarron was tasked with keeping Denise O’Sullivan quiet, although the former’s opening act, in the opening minute, was to clatter into Ruesha Littlejohn in the centre circle.
Lucy Quinn almost had a chance inside the second minute but a combination of a poor first touch and Sarah McFadden on the cover snuffed out that opportunity.
Home keeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford then almost gave a goal away, dithering over a clearance, allowing Carusa to charge it down, but the ball flew wide of the post.
The referee then spoke sternly to Republic captain McCabe after she appeared to trail her boot across the grounded Rebecca McKenna following a challenge.
Cold conditions, but the players were bringing some heat.
The Republic were more composed in possession, better in their first touch, but could not create chances against a disciplined home defence. They tried testing Harvey-Clifford but she confidently claimed an inswinging corner then a cross.
Indeed there was little of note for a long period until the game then burst into life with two goals inside a minute.
First Lucy Quinn collected possession in the inside left channel, cut inside and unleashed a shot which dipped just over the jump of Laura Rafferty and appeared to catch Harvey-Clifford unsighted, flying into the middle of her goal.
NI had barely taken in that blow when they were struck again. Once more Lucy Quinn was involved, receiving the ball wide on the left, before adjusting to cross right-footed and Payne raced into space to volley firmly in.
The hosts did offer some hope of a comeback, Marissa Callaghan’s cross-shot forcing Courtney Brosnan to tip over her own bar – and she then had to punch clear when McCarron whipped in a vicious corner.
However, it was the visitors who scored next, with just over a minute of the second half played. Oxtoby had made two half-time changes, replacing right-back McKenna and – surprisingly – centre-forward Magill, with Demi Vance and Kerry Beattie.
That meant a defensive re-shuffle, with Hamilton asked to cover back on the right, and McCabe took full advantage, drilling a cross from the left corner. Full credit to Carusa too, though, who flung herself bravely forward at the near post to direct a header beyond the flat-footed goalkeeper.
McCabe again profited from uncertainty on the right of the home rearguard, drifting in from the left before guiding a lovely shot into the far top corner off her supposedly weaker right foot.
When it’s not your night, it’s not your night. The fifth goal came from a corner awarded after a Payne shot clipped the top of the bar. Megan Connolly delivered from the right and Louise Quinn rose high to thump a header high inside the far post.
The home support at last got something serious to cheer about when Beattie reacted quickest to a fierce low drive from Holloway, turning the ball in from inside the six-yard box.
Yet having come into this game with hopes of showing signs of improvement since losing the group opener 3-0 in Dublin, NI conceded again late on, Hayes turning in a Connolly corner at the back post to ram home the visitors’ superiority.
Northern Ireland (4-4-2): Harvey-Clifford; McKenna (Vance, h-t), McFadden, Rafferty, Holloway; Hamilton, Caldwell (Maxwell, 66), McCarron (Bell, 81), Callaghan (capt.); Magill (Beattie, h-t), Wade.
Republic of Ireland (3-4-1-2): Brosnan; Hayes, Louise Quinn (Mustaki, 81), Connolly; Payne (Larkin, 63), Finn (Agg, 85), Littlejohn (Stapleton, 63), McCabe (capt.); O’Sullivan; Carusa, Lucy Quinn (Atkinson, 81).
Referee: Veronika Kovarova (Czechia).