BY CHRIS MCNULTY
CIARA Grant says her Republic of Ireland side can draw on the spirit of 2010 when they face European champions and Group 1 leaders Germany in a FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying clash at Tallaght Stadium on Saturday (3pm).
The Letterkenny native is hoping to get a slice of the action for Sue Ronan’s side and is one of the graduates from the ground-breaking Irish Under-17 side of four years ago.
Then managed by Noel King, Grant and company reached the final and only a penalty shoot-out defeat to Spain denied them the European trophy.
Ireland sent shock waves rippling through the sport when a Megan Campbell free-kick gave them a 1-0 semi-final win over Germany in Nyon.
On Saturday, many of the protagonists from that game will meet again.
“It’s so fresh in the mind, even now,” Grant says.
“I remember the goal, the excitement of it all, everyone was just buzzing. At half-time, we came in and worked out a game plan. We stuck to the plan and we held them off the for the second half. It was a game that we just gelled in.
“There was no expectation on us that day. There was no pressure.”
That run fired Ireland into the Under-17 World Cup and they reached the quarter-finals in Trinidad & Tobago, before bowing out to Japan, 2-1, having come through a group that included Brazil, Canada and Ghana.
Grant says: “That campaign really helped us. It helped us to believe that we could win. We were given the group of death, but we did well.
“Even when we got to the World Cup, we played a quarter-final against Japan and we were unlucky. The experience of that was massive.
“It helped us to improve, big time. Seven of the team has moved into the seniors now and it’s a fairly young group we have with us. If we could get the same spirit and stuff we had that day we beat Germany for this weekend it would be great.”
The Irish women have been based in Dunboyne Castle this week and are training at Carton House.
Grant doesn’t need told about the size of this fixture, one that Setanta Ireland will provide deferred ‘as live’ coverage of on Saturday evening.
She says: “It’ll be a massive occasion.
“This is probably the biggest game I’ve been involved in, especially at senior level. We’re going to come up against some of the best players in the world. Germany are second in the world. It’s such a jump for us.
“This is a boons game for us in a way. If we could get something, anything from this it would be brilliant.
“But Germany have scored over forty goals. Our main focus from now will be the Russia games, but we’re going well and we’re in the right frame of mind, so who knows? We’ll give it our best shot, that’s for sure. We would need points home and away to Russia.”
A third-year medicine student at UCD, these are busy times for the midfielder.
“It’s hard, but the people in the College have been a great help,” she says.
“It’s hard coming to the end of a semester, like now, but in weeks like this where I have to miss class they’re really excellent with me. Their facilities are superb as well and they have the High Performance team as well which is a huge help.”
Grant created a little nugget of history in the 2013 Women’s FAI Cup final when she scored a stunning opening goal for Raheny United in their 3-2 win over Castlebar. Her wonderful two-touch volley was a goal fit to grace any stage and it also happen to be the first goal scored by a female at the Aviva Stadium.
“It’s up there with the best memories I have in football,” she says.
“To score at the Aviva…I don’t score very often really, so that wasn’t a bad time to get one!”
Ireland have beaten Slovakie 2-0 and Slovenia 3-0 with a draw against Croatia in between those games. Grant knows she faces stiff competition for a slot in the middle of the park.
She says: “I’d love to be involved, but there is massive competition in my position. We had eight central midfielders out in Cyprus with us. Sue has been very good with us, though. Everyone has got a chance in training this week and we’re all just trying to impress.”
Ireland jumped three places in the World Rankings following their sixth-place finish at last month’s Cyprus Cup, meaning they are now ranked 30th in the world.
Admission is €5 for adults and €2 for Under-16s and students.
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