Girls in Green hit by 'massive' injury blow ahead of crucial World Cup double header
The Republic of Ireland have been hit with another 'massive blow' on the injury front with FAI senior international women's player of the year Harriet Scott ruled out of the crucial World Cup qualifiers next month.
The Reading defender hasn't recovered in time from a collar bone injury and is added to an absentee list that already includes Sunderland striker Stephanie Roche and defender and long throw expert Megan Campbell (both knee).
"It was obvious that Steph and Megan would be out," said manager Colin Bell as he revealed a 22-woman squad for next month's crucial World Cup qualifying matches against Slovakia and joint Group 3 table toppers the Netherlands.
"I was still hoping that Harriet may be able to get back. She had an examination last Friday, we'd met a few days earlier. I was at the cup final, Arsenal against Manchester City, the Continental Cup final. We had a long chat the day before that match and I was hopeful that maybe she'd get the okay.
"It's healed very well so far but the surgeon has said that she needs another three weeks before she can start contact. It was clear that Megan and Steph would be out but [losing] Harriet is a massive blow because again, it's another full-back, just like Megan. It's a position and a player that we can't really replace at the moment."
Bell has guided the Girls in Green into a position where there is real hope that they could finally qualify for their first ever major tournament.
After the incredible draw away to the Netherlands in November, they are level on points with the Dutch who are group favourites and have a slightly better goal difference while the other top ranked side, Norway are a point further back.
"I hope so," replies Bell when asked if these are the two biggest games the women's team have ever faced.
"We've got ourselves into a position where we could maybe claim that and state that and I think that's the kind of position I would like to be in. I don't know how the girls see that. Some of them have been around a little bit longer, others would not have experienced these kind of fixtures before or of course the Dutch match that we played in Holland was a fantastic match, very important of course.
"My job is again now, just to focus first of all on that first game against Slovakia. And that is a country and team that are very close to us, the way they play, the level of play, the possibilities they have. So we just have to focus basically on that.
"Since I've been in, I've said we want to move things forward. We're looking to get that attention but we have to have that attention on the pitch through good performances. I'm just hoping again that the girls will be able to raise their game to the occasion and it will start against Slovakia."
There was a positive injury update with Peamount striker Aine O'Gorman recovering from a knee injury just in time while Florida State University midfielder Megan Connolly also comes into the squad as well as UCD Waves winger Dearbhaile Beirne.
The two games represent Ireland's first home ties in the campaign as they face Slovakia on Friday, April 6, with kick-off at 5pm, and then face European Champions the Netherlands on Tuesday, April 10, with kick-off at 7.30pm. Both will be played at Tallaght Stadium.
Republic of Ireland squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (Manchester City), Amanda Budden (Cork City), Amanda McQuillan (Shelbourne)
Defenders: Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Sophie Perry-Campbell (Brighton and Hove Albion), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Niamh Fahey (Bordeaux).
Midfielders: Tyler Toland (Maiden City), Megan Connolly (Florida State University), Karen Duggan (Peamount United), Denise O'Sullivan (NC Courage), Roma McLaughlin (Shelbourne), Amy Boyle-Carr (Sion Swifts).
Attackers: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Leanne Kiernan (Shelbourne), Amber Barrett (Peamount United), Isibeal Atkinson (Shelbourne), Ruesha Littlejohn (Celtic), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Claire O'Riordan (Wexford Youths), Dearbhaile Beirne (UCD Waves)