Payne and Ireland set to face Greece in crucial qualifier
Heather Payne from Ballinasloe is part of the Ireland women's soccer squad who are preparing for a crucial UEFA EURO 2021 qualifier against Greece tonight (Thursday).
Ireland take on Greece at Tallaght Stadium with three points set as the target by Ireland manager Vera Pauw, whose team remain unbeaten in Group I after three games played.
"We consider this a must-win game if we are to secure second place in the group," said Pauw. "We played Greece in our last game so we know a lot about them and we are ready for this test, which will be different as we have more of our players available to us this time.
“We are delighted that ticket sales have been going so well, but I would like to encourage everyone who has a ticket to come to the game. We need the support of the fans and we want them to be loud, because that gives the players a real boost during difficult moments in the game.
"Our aim has always been to qualify for the European Championships, even though we know how good Germany are, so it is crucial that we get the three points against Greece."
Over 5,500 tickets have been snapped up for this game, which Ireland – who are second in the group behind Germany – hope to win in order to boost their chances of qualifying for next summer’s finals tournament in England. The nine group winners and the three best runners-up (not counting results against the sixth-placed team) qualify directly for the final tournament, while the remaining six runners-up advance to the play-offs.
The trio of Megan Connolly (shoulder), Jessica Ziu (groin) and Leanne Kiernan (knee) have been ruled out of the game for Ireland, but American-born Kyra Carusa is one of four uncapped players in contention after receiving FIFA international clearance last week. Born in San Diego, Carusa qualifies through her maternal grandparents, from Cork and Laois respectively. She has just joined HB Hoge in Denmark and follows a long line of American-born players to represent Ireland.
Meanwhile, Aine O'Gorman returns from international retirement having decided to step away in 2018 with 100 caps and 13 goals on her record.
Kick-off for the Ireland v Greece match is 7.15pm and the game will be shown on RTE2.
Republic of Ireland squad
Goalkeepers: Marie Hourihan (SC Braga), Grace Moloney (Reading), Courtney Brosnan (West Ham United).
Defenders: Harriet Scott (Birmingham City), Aine O’Gorman (Peamount United), Diane Caldwell (SC Sand), Claire O'Riordan (MSV Duisburg), Louise Quinn (Arsenal), Claire Walsh (Peamount United), Chloe Mustaki (Charlton Athletic).
Midfielders: Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Hayley Nolan (Connecticut Fusion), Jamie Finn (Shelbourne), Julie-Ann Russell (Sydney University), Ruesha Littlejohn (West Ham United), Niamh Farrelly (Peamount United), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool).
Forwards: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Rianna Jarrett (Brighton & Hove Albion), Amber Barrett (FC Koln), Clare Shine (Glasgow City), Heather Payne (Florida State University), Krya Carusa (HB Hoge).