'Hard nut' O'Sullivan backed to win fitness race by Littlejohn

'Hard nut' O'Sullivan backed to win fitness race by Littlejohn

Ruesha Littlejohn has backed "hard nut" Denise O'Sullivan to win her fitness battle ahead of Ireland's World Cup opener on Thursday.

Cork native O'Sullivan was rushed to hospital last weekend when she received a nasty challenge from one of the Colombian players in the behind-closed-doors friendly in Brisbane.

The game was called off with 20-minutes gone and the extent of O'Sullivan's injury was not yet known.

However, further updates followed, and it was stated that O'Sullivan did not break or fracture any part of her leg, which was good news for the Irish team.

The WSL midfielder returned to light training this week and is said to be easing herself back into things after the shin injury.

Republic of Ireland manager Vera Pauw admitted that she didn't know if Thursday's opening clash against Australia would come too soon for O'Sullivan, but added that there were strong signs of hope around it being the case.

"We don’t know if Thursday is too soon; I would tell you, but we don’t know. There are really good hopes, and Denise herself says there are really good hopes," said Pauw on Monday

Littlejohn also added that she wasn't too worried about her teammate's condition and that she would plough on as normal because of her strong character.

"Denise probably doesn’t go down as much. You knew she took a sore one," said Littlejohn to reporters in Australia.

“But at the same time, she’s actually a little hard nut, so she’ll be fine. Fingers crossed, but I’m sure Dee is all good."

O'Sullivan is seen as one of Ireland's key players, and losing her would be a significant blow to Vera Pauw and the team. Littlejohn emphasized how important Ireland's "secret weapon" would be going forward.

"She probably doesn’t get enough praise for it because she plays out in the States," added the 33-year-old.

“I’m pretty sure if she was playing WSL, she’d be up there with the superstars of the league.

“It’s like a secret weapon. I’m sure all these teams will be doing analysis and seeing how good she is.

"Hopefully, she’ll be on it and be ready to go and make a difference.”

Ireland's game against Australia starts at 11pm Irish Time this Thursday.

Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Defenders: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Áine O'Gorman (Shamrock Rovers), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Diane Caldwell (Reading), Claire O'Riordan (Celtic), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Chloe Mustaki (Bristol City), Izzy Atkinson (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Sinead Farrelly (NJ/NY Gotham), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Kyra Carusa (London City Lionesses), Amber Barrett (Standard Liege), Marissa Sheva (Washington Spirit), Abbie Larkin (Shamrock Rovers)Training Players: Sophie Whitehouse, Harriet Scott, Jamie Finn

FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 - Group BJuly 20 | Australia v Ireland, Stadium Australia, Sydney, KO 11:00 (Irish Time)July 26 | Canada v Ireland, Rectangular Stadium, Perth, KO 13:00 (Irish Time)July 31 | Ireland v Nigeria, Lang Park, Brisbane, KO 11:00 (Irish Time)