'Frisco's on fire
The Republic of Ireland finished up their World Cup qualifying campaign on a high last Wednesday evening at the Carlisle Grounds when they dismissed the challenge of Israel thanks to a stunning second-half hat-trick from Fiona O'Sullivan.
O'Sullivan has been something of a revelation for the Irish squad. The San Francisco striker came to the attention of the Irish manager Noel King after she sent an email to the FAI declaring her eligibility.
King invited the classy striker to an Irish training camp that took place Stateside last year and O'Sullivan, a tall, elegant yet powerful striker with a goal-scorer's eye, has since netted six goals in five games during this campaign as she has shown some genuine star quality.
The win capped off an impressive campaign as the Girls in Green, who had Sue Rowan at the helm for a second time following King's move to the men's Under-21 job, finished third in the group behind winners Switzerland and secondplace Russia.
Ireland claimed four wins from their eight games in the group, only losing games to the top two. Wednesday night was the perfect way to end the tournament as Sue Ronan's side dismissed the Israelis by three goals to nil for the second time in the group.
It took the Irish nearly an hour to warm to the task as the stop-start nature of the game, punctuated with free kicks, kept the home side from finding their rhythm. Then when O'Sullivan netted the opener there was no looking back. The first goal was well worth the wait as this gem of a striker powered home a left-footed shot from the edge of the area.
O' Sullivan added her second just six minutes later when she tapped home from close range after Aine O'Gorman's corner. O'Gorman was sent-off minutes later for a second bookable offence - harsh in the extreme as she was dismissed for taking a quick free kick.
The third and final goal arrived in the final minutes as Meabh de Burca cut the Israeli back line apart with a sweet low pass that picked out O'Sullivan and the Irish striker made no mistake as she coolly slotted home from 12 yards.
IRELAND: Emma Byrne; Shannon McDonnell, Mary Therese McDonnell, Niamh Fahey, Yvonne Treacy, Sonya Hughes, Ciara Grant, Meabh de Burca, Shannon Smith, Fiona O'Sullivan, Aine O'Gorman. SUBS: Julie Ann Russell (for Smith 82mins), Stephanie Roche (for de Burca 83mins), Jemma Connor (for O'Sullivan 87mins), Niamh Reid Burke, Louise Quinn, Ciara McCormack, Lynn Marie Grant.