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Rhian Wilkinson watches on as Wales ease to Republic of Ireland victory

27 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Wales’ Jess Fishlock celebrates scoring their side’s first goal of the game during the Women’s International Friendly match at the Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Jess Fishlock set Wales on their way to a 2-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland as new manager Rhian Wilkinson got a taste of what she can expect.

Former Canada international and England and Team GB assistant Wilkinson was among a crowd of 8,218 at Tallaght Stadium a day after her appointment as Gemma Grainger’s replacement following her departure for Norway.

She looked on as interim manager Jon Grey guided Wales to a deserved win over a side which qualified for the 2023 World Cup finals as 37-year-old Fishlock and Seattle Reign club-mate Lily Woodham secured victory in their final game before the Euro 2025 qualifying campaign.

The visitors made the brighter start and took the lead with just eight minutes gone when the Irish defence failed to deal with a corner and although goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan managed to deny skipper Sophie Ingle at the far post, Fishlock was on hand to slot home from close range when Hayley Ladd drove the ball back across goal.

Leanne Kiernan floated a shot onto the roof of Olivia Clark’s net after being played into space down the left by Katie McCabe, and the Wales keeper pulled off a fine double save to keep out Caitlin Hayes’ header and Amber Barrett’s follow-up as the hosts responded in determined fashion.

Wales fans during the Women’s International Friendly match at the Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. Credit: Niall Carson/PA Wire

However, Wales doubled their advantage with 22 minutes played when the ball fell to full-back Woodham on the edge of the penalty area and she smashed a shot past Brosnan and into the top corner with the outside of her left foot.

Elise Hughes was unable to make the most of an opening carved out by Fishlock and Rachel Rowe scuffed a shot straight at Brosnan five minutes before the break.

Ireland head coach Eileen Gleeson made a triple change at the break as she sent on Louise Quinn, Emily Murphy and Kyra Carusa for Diane Caldwell, Kiernan and Barrett and her side gradually dragged themselves into the game.

Hughes drilled a 62nd-minute shot into Brosnan’s midriff, but neither side was able to exert any real control in an increasingly scrappy contest, and the home side’s woes increased 17 minutes from time when McCabe limped off injured.

Substitute Ceri Holland might have increased Wales’ lead but for a solid save from Brosnan with 10 minutes remaining, but victory was already assured.

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