The loss of Inishowen’s Niamh McLaughlin just before half-time meant Team Ireland’s women footballers were up against it in their opening game against Mexico at the World University Games in Taiwan this afternoon.
The performance of the former Greencastle FC star was one of the major plus points during a scoreless draw played out in scorching heat at the Hsinchu County Second Stadium.
Mexico dominated for large parts of the game but were more often than not restricted to long range efforts which Amanda Budden dealt with comfortably on each occasion.
Ireland’s first sign of an opening came when Claire O’Riordan picked up the ball 30 yards out.
The Wexford Youths striker knocked the ball into the path of the overlapping McLaughlin with the local woman bursting through the Mexican defence but her final effort couldn’t trouble the Mexican goalkeeper Ofelia Solis.
Ireland were hit a massive blow five minutes before half time when the energetic McLaughlin was forced to be substituted with a dead leg.
The Northumbria University masters student will face a fitness test to make Sunday’s now crucial encounter with Canada.
Ireland looked comfortable with containing the Mexican threat in the second period with the creativity of the North American outfit beginning to wane in thirty-two degrees celsius heat.
The back three of Claire Walsh, Shauna Fox and Rebekah Carroll stood firm which forced the Mexicans to try their luck from distance with Budden relatively comfortable barring a Diana Lopez effort which smashed off the crossbar before flying out of play.
Ireland nearly completed the perfect smash and grab with twenty minutes to go when captain Amber Barrett raced through on goal with only the keeper to beat but the Donegal striker’s touch let her down and the ball was collected by Solis.
Ireland will go into Sunday morning’s clash with Canada knowing that three points will guarantee them a place in the Quarter Finals.
Anything less will mean that the Girls in Green will be anxiously watching out for the result of Tuesday’s clash between Mexico and Canada.
IRELAND – Budden, Berrill, Walsh, Fox, Carroll, Mustaki, McLaughlin (Kinsella 43’) Ryan-Doyle (Frawley 55’) Nolan (McNamara 73’) O’Riordan, Barrett.
Subs Unused: Badana (GK), McCarthy, Clancy, Byrne, Jarrett, Webb.
MEXICO – O Solis, Perez (Munoz 33’), Pontigo, De la Rosa (Ramos 60), Vazquez (Lopez 54), Zepeda, Evangelista, Robles, Sandoval (Casas 43’) Cadena, D Solis
Subs Unused: Gutierrez (GK), Sosa, Castro, Balderas, Pina.