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Preparations for Euro 2025 qualifiers quieted after FAI abuse allegations

IT’S INTERNATIONAL WEEK — albeit different.

Over the next seven days, the Ireland women’s national team will face two of the three best teams in the world as they prepare for the group stage of Euro 2025 qualifying.

Eileen Gleeson’s charges will face defending champions England in Norwich on Friday before taking on France at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Tuesday.

However, following a joint investigation by RTÉ and The Sunday Independent, attention has now turned to the FAI and allegations of historical wrongdoing.

Women involved in football in the 1990s have spoken of unwanted advances, sexual abuse and intimidation by a number of male coaches in the RTÉ Investigates: Girls in Green documentary and a series of articles. A Garda investigation is ongoing.

Shortly before the documentary was to be broadcast on Sunday evening, the Irish WNT team’s media appearances scheduled for the following morning were cancelled.

Typically, four players are interviewed at the start of each transfer window for international matches, but it is understood that plans have changed.

The FAI held a press conference on Monday morning where interim chief executive David Courell and director of people and culture Aoife Rafferty addressed the allegations of abuse that had been made.

FAI Director of People and Culture Aoife Rafferty and Interim Chief Executive David Courell addressed the media yesterday. Tom Maher / INPHO

Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

The build-up to the England v France match is subdued, while the Games themselves are overshadowed by debate and discussion.

Gleeson and the player will be available for a Q&A at Carrow Road on Thursday, as is common the day before a match, and there will also be opportunities to chat to the players in the mixed zone after the match on Friday evening.

Asking questions is necessary, but we must not forget about football.

Ireland are aiming for points in a tough group. They have already lost to France (1-0), England (2-0) and Sweden (3-0 and 1-0) as the top two teams qualify directly for next year’s Euro finals, while the bottom two advance to the play-offs later this year. The race is on for the final play-off spot, which would mean an easier route to Switzerland 2025. Every point – and goal – counts, and the result would be huge as the Girls In Green keep an eye on their closest rivals, Poland.

Their previous meeting with England at the Aviva Stadium was a penalty night. The Lionesses were 2-0 up in the 18th minute and should have been ahead by half-time but missed a penalty. Ireland mounted a late raid but England held firm.

Katie McCabe will miss the return match due to a one-match suspension, with the returning Denise O’Sullivan taking over as captain in her absence.

“It’s changing the mindset,” with Gleeson detailing potentially different approaches during last week’s squad announcement. Ireland have played with both a back three/five and a back four in the campaign so far, while the attack will look different without the injured Kyra Carusa. The US-born striker has been the focal point up top since April 2023, but Gleeson could change tactics from a back nine. Leanne Kiernan, Amber Barrett, Abbie Larkin, Emily Murphy and returning duo Julie-Ann Russell and Marissa Sheva are among the attacking options as Ireland look to end their goal drought.

Ireland will be without Eileen Gleeson for the match against England. Ryan Byrne / INPHO

Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

This week we will be working on the grass, continuing our earlier preparations in the mini camp that took place two weeks ago while most of the team was off-season.

The players attended a Taylor Swift concert as part of their training camp and are hoping England does not witness any more atrocities this summer.

Sarina Wiegman’s side have been training at St George’s Park this week and almost the full squad was out yesterday. Goalkeeper Mary Earps is on course to be available on Friday after picking up a hip injury in the defeat to France in May. Hannah Hampton was between the sticks in the last match against Ireland but PSG’s new signing Earps is likely to be favourite for this one.

Lauren James will not play due to a foot injury, but the Lionesses have no shortage of other players.

Last week, in a back-to-back game, they drew 1-1 with the Netherlands, with Aggie Beaver Jones scoring the goal.

England are outside the automatic qualification places: level on points with Sweden but slightly worse on goal difference, while France lead the table with nine points.

Wiegman’s charges will travel to Sweden on Monday for another must-win match, with their sights set solely on direct qualification.

For Ireland this international week is not so clear-cut.