Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s play Hungary Bulgaria and Norway

Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s play Hungary Bulgaria and Norway

The waiting is almost over as the Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s prepare to start their quest to reach the UEFA Women's Under-17 European Championship finals tournament.

The first step in that journey begins on Saturday in Sandnes, Norway where James Scott's squad take on Hungary in the first of three Round 1 games (Bulgaria & Norway being their two other opponents).

The top three teams will progress to Round 2, where only the final group winners will advance to the finals tournament in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

If Ireland are to reach their first tournament at this age level since 2017 then they will need to rely on the team unity that has been built up over recent training camps and friendly international matches.

Shelbourne forward Abbie Larkin has been given the responsibility of captain, but the Dubliner insists her style of leadership is about being inclusive and ensuring that everyone feels part of it.

"I found out in the Northern Ireland game, in the camp. It was a surprise but happy to get it," said Larkin of the captaincy.

"Pearl (Slattery, Shelbourne captain) has been helping me. She’s been giving me advice on captaincy and stuff. She’s good to look up to. Just be yourself, don’t change, motivate the girls, don’t let anybody feel left out."

It is a simple approach to adopt but it's one that is serving Scott's squad well with noteworthy performances registered in double-header games against Northern Ireland and Portugal recently.

Larkin is trusting her team-mates to fulfil their roles so that she can focus on her own job and it is that collective approach that gives Ireland a fantastic chance to do well in these qualifying games.
Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17 Squad
Goalkeepers: Claudia Keenan, Summer Lawless (Peamount United)
Defenders: Meabh Russell, Heidi Macken (Cork City), Eve Dossen, Kate Thompson (Galway WFC), Aoibhe Fleming, Tara O'Hanlon (Peamount United)
Midfielders: Ellie O'Brien (Cork City), Keri Loughrey, Jodie Loughrey (Donegal Women's League), Orlaith O'Mahony (Shamrock Rovers), Aoife Kelly (St Patrick's Carlow), Michaela Lawrence (Treaty United)
Forwards: Abbie Larkin, Lia O'Leary, Katie McCarn (Shelbourne), Joy Ralph (DLR Waves), Ellie Long (Síon Swifts), Heidi O'Sullivan (Treaty United)

UEFA Women's Under-17 European Championship Round 1 - Group 1
Saturday, October 9 | Republic of Ireland v Hungary | KO 13:00 | Sandnes, Norway
Tuesday, October 12 | Republic of Ireland v Bulgaria | KO 13:00 | Sandnes, Norway
Friday, October 15 | Republic of Ireland v Norway | KO 16:00 | Sandnes, Norway

Republic of Ireland U17 captain Abbie Larkin W U17 Captain forward Abbie Larkin

Last Month, in September, the Irish U17 Women's team defeated Portugal 1-0

With time ticking down in Lisbon, defender Heidi Macken popped up to score the winning goal for the Republic of Ireland Women's Under-17s in a 1-0 victory over hosts Portugal.

The Cork City ace made the most telling impact at the most crucial time as referee Sofia Gamas pretty much blew the final whistle after that to allow Ireland to extend their celebrations.

Head Coach James Scott made some changes to his line-up following last Monday's 3-1 loss to the same opponent and there was a freshness about their play in the Portuguese heat.

It was the hosts who struck first with a shot from distance rattling the Irish crossbar before Claudia Keenan was called on to make a vital save on 18 minutes.

However, Ireland did produce some neat passages of play - a characteristic of Scott's teams - with Lia O'Leary shooting just wide of the target and also registering a second effort at goal.

Abby Larkin tested the alertness of the Portuguese goalkeeper, Eve Dossen headed wide when meeting a free-kick delivery, and Michaela Lawrence clipped the top of the crossbar with a shot.

While Portugal did have some chances, it was Ireland who looked the most likely to score with Larkin again going close. But luck seemed to be evading them, until Macken changed that for them.

The watch had gone past the 90th minute when Macken got the goal that ends this trip to Portugal on a high and should give Ireland plenty of confidence going into their UEFA Women's Under-17 European Championship qualifiers.

Republic of Ireland: Keenan; Thompson, Dossen (Fleming 68), Macken, O'Hanlon; O'Mahony (O'Brien 80), Lawrence (O'Riley 68); Long (Kelly 56), Loughrey (McCarn 80), O'Leary (Ralph 80); Larkin.

Portugal: Faria; Ramos, Vinhas, Cardoso, Pinto, Francisca; Ferreira, Martins, Joao, Simas, Doce.

Referee: Sofia Gama (Portugal).