What Are the Republic of Ireland's Chances of Euro 2025 Qualification?
Brisbane , Australia - 17 July 2023; The Republic of Ireland squad at Meakin Park in Brisbane, Australia, ahead of the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023. Back row, from left, Marissa Sheva, Lucy Quinn, Ciara Grant, Claire O'Riordan, Lily Agg, Abbie Larkin, Jamie Finn, Izzy Atkinson and Harriet Scott; middle row, Sinead Farrelly, Heather Payne, Grace Moloney, Courtney Brosnan, Megan Walsh, Sophie Whitehouse, Kyra Carusa and Chloe Mustaki; front row, Ruesha Littlejohn, Diane Caldwell, Louise Quinn, Denise O'Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Megan Connolly, Niamh Fahey, Áine O'Gorman and Amber Barrett. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Amber Barrett's 72nd minute goal against Scotland on the 11th October 2022 to qualify Ireland for their first World Cup; Amhrán na bhFiann resounding throughout Stadium Australia in Sydney as Ireland started their World Cup campaign; Katie McCabe's 'Olympico' conversion as Ireland scored their first ever World Cup goal - there have been a host of poignant and watershed moments in Irish women's football over the past two years but, qualifying for a European Championship is yet to be done. 

Over those two years, the words 'OUTBELIEVE' have greeted visitors into Dublin Airport, decorated the side of buses and watched over the M50. It was a campaign which aimed to draw fans to the side, to create strong support for the team and celebrate the culture of Ireland through sport. 

It worked

Ireland qualified for a World Cup, the Irish abroad came out in their numbers to support the Girls in Green from the stands in Australia and towns were decorated with bunting and flags back home to support the players. Switzerland would be a much shorter flight for fans to take but, a lengthy qualification process lies in the way of the dream and the plane ticket. 

  • Previous opportunities 

The road to Euro 2022 was different from the refined route for 2025. Ireland were put into Pot 3 for the draw and ended up with Germany, Ukraine, Greece and Montenegro in their group. 

Their campaign started positively with a 2-0 win over Montenegro and a scrappy 3-2 victory over Ukraine. Ireland dropped points to Greece as Anastasia Spyridonidou scored a 93rd minute equaliser. However, at home, Diane Caldwell's strike saw redemption for Ireland as they secured a 1-0 win. Success was repeated as days before the world shut down due to Covid-19, Ireland went to Montenegro to seal a 3-0 win.

The mid-pandemic side looked a different outfit losing 3-0 to Germany, 1-0 to Ukraine and later 3-1 to Germany to end all qualifying hopes. Ireland would not qualify for the 2022 Euros.

  • The road 

Ireland's journey to Euro 2025 will by no means be easy. Being drawn in a group with France, Sweden and current European Champions, England - weighty challenge awaits. 

The campaign opens on the 5th April at the Stade Saint-Symphorien in Metz where they will face France. The Aviva Stadium in Dublin will then stage an epic clash between Ireland and holders, England. 

In May and June, the Aviva Stadium will also host Sweden, the reverse fixture taking place the following week in Sweden at an unconfirmed ground. The final games of the group will take place at Carrow Road in Norwich where England will host in July and Ireland will conclude with France at home.

Ireland are positioned in League A meaning that if they finish in the top two places in their group, they will qualify directly for the 2025 Euros. However, seven spots in the competition will still be up for grabs and this will be decided by two rounds of play-offs, taking place between October and December later this year. 

The play-offs will consist of two rounds, with the first round having two parallel roads. The eight teams who finish third and fourth in League A will play against the winners of the five groups and three 'best-ranked' runners-up in League C. The winners of these matches will then progress to round two of the play-offs. 

The other branch of the first round, which Ireland will not be a part of, will consist of League B's runners-up and third-placed teams. They will be ranked from 1-12 and the six best and six lowest teams will face each other. The six sides who win their games will also progress to round two of the play-offs. 

Both routes will join together in the second round where teams will play home and away against one side. The winning team will secure qualification for Euro 2025. 

In short - there is opportunity

Being realistic, the Republic of Ireland will probably find themselves in a play-off situation. Drawing England, France and Sweden in their group, it is a demanding run of fixtures to automatically qualify through the group stage. Referring to the current FIFA rankings, England are 2nd in the world, France 3rd and Sweden are 6th. No other qualifying group have more than one nation in the top 10 of the FIFA rankings - group A3 have three. 

Captain McCabe has solidified her status an iconic figure in Irish sporting history. From her successes domestically with Arsenal to her astounding goal at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, McCabe is the kingpin - or perhaps queenpin - of Irish football. 

When Emma Byrne, Ireland's most capped player, passed the captaincy baton onto a 21-year-old McCabe, it seemed like a brave and somewhat risky decision. The pressures of leading a side, one who had just instigated a revolt against the FAI for better pay and working conditions, could have stunted McCabe's progression as a player and held back her ability. Alas, the contrary, as the now 28-year-old has been pivotal in the development, quality and progression of football within her home country. 

If there is anyone who will lead Ireland to their inaugural European Championships, it will be Katie McCabe. 

  • The next generation 

Ireland is becoming a hotbed for footballing talent. The League of Ireland is not yet as strong as other European or Worldwide leagues, however, some of the countries' youngest prospects have massively benefitted from the pathway. 

Tara O'Hanlon, Izzy Atkinson and Abbie Larkin are a trio of players who's development over the past few years has only strengthened the Irish side.

19-year-old O'Hanlon is the latest Irish player to make the move to the Women's Super League, signing for Manchester City on deadline day in January. O'Hanlon put pen to paper, securing a deal until the summer of 2027. Playing as an attacking full-back, with experience in the midfield, O'Hanlon is an exciting prospect with some significant retirements expected over the next few years in the back line.

Crystal Palace's Izzy Atkinson has not had the smoothest journey in the English leagues. Her stint at West Ham, starting in 2022, did not provide the greatest opportunities but a move to Palace seems to be changing that. 18-year-old Abbie Larkin completes the duo in South London, signing after a few months at Glasgow City. Larkin has  been in the eyes of selectors since a young age, making her senior debut as a 16-year-old. Larkin made it into the final World Cup squad, heading to Australia for Ireland's historic summer and featured as one of the tournaments' youngest players.

The trio started their careers in the League of Ireland, with Peamount and Shelbourne respectively -  two clubs who have birthed a wealth of National Team players. If Ireland are to quality for the 2025 Euros, these players will be even more important. 

  • A Passport with Opportunities 

Across numerous sports, Ireland find themselves in a slightly unique situation. For centuries, Irish citizens have moved far and wide, setting up home across the world. Moving one or two generations down the ladder, the Irish Women's National Team is now made up of players hailing from New Jersey to Warrington and Glasgow to Bromsgrove.

Individual judgement perhaps reveals different opinions on the matter and the fairness on homegrown players however, each call up has their own, unique connection and story linking them to the Emerald Isle. 

Eileen Gleeson's latest recruit is Harpenden-born, Anna Patten. Her Irish grandparents have made her eligible for the Girls in Green, providing her with the best opportunity to play international football. Patten has been a regular for England age group squads since U15s, captaining the U23s side most recently. 

Although it is sometimes frowned upon when - in particular - England and US youth players switch allegiance to Ireland, it's to the benefit of both the player and the nation. 

US-born Courtney Brosnan has worked her way into Ireland's No.1 spot and wrote her name into Irish history in 2022. Saving Caroline Wier's penalty early on in the World Cup qualifier against Scotland, Brosnan was crucial in ensuring Ireland's plane ticket to Australia for their first ever World Cup.

Glaswegian, Ruesha Littlejohn is a stalwart of the National Team, making her debut back in 2012. Littlejohn has rode the rollercoaster of a challenging period for the squad, fighting for equality and failing to quality for tournaments. On an individual level, she has battled with injuries, missing some historic matches but has stepped up and delivered when opportunities have arisen. 

Born and raised in Southampton, Lucy Quinn became the first Irish player to score in an international women's match at the Aviva Stadium. Last September, the Aviva hosted a historic fixture against Northern Ireland, Quinn opening the scoring in a 3-0 victory. 

  • Will Ireland qualify?

The question still stands, will Ireland qualify for the 2025 European Championships? My answer would be that if there ever was a time, it is now. 

Ireland find themselves with one of the strongest squads they have ever had. There are a few injuries among the side but a lack of depth is no longer their problem. Eileen Gleeson has ensured a smooth transition from the Vera Pauw era into her tenure and could make history over the next few months. 

As alluded to, Ireland's best opportunity is through the play-off stages. It will not be easy football but this is a squad who have made history, who have changed the narrative and who have already made it to the world stage before. 

Ole, Ole, Ole 

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