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Ronan rallies Ireland for hard campaign

Susan Ronan knows the Republic of Ireland face a tough qualifying group in her first full campaign as coach but points to their surprise Under-17 success last year as inspiration.

Ireland line up before last month's 1-0 friendly loss to Switzerland
Ireland line up before last month's 1-0 friendly loss to Switzerland ©Sportsfile

The Republic of Ireland's progress under Noel King was impressive, reaching the UEFA Women's EURO 2009 play-offs and 2010 UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship final – and Susan Ronan has the task of building on those successes.

Former women's U19 coach Ronan grabbed the senior reins when King took over Ireland's men's U21 team last year after his U17 exploits. Yet if Ireland's run to the Women's EURO 2009 play-offs, where they were beaten by Iceland, was a real breakthrough, a repeat will not be easy as they begin their Group 5 bid on Saturday in Wales, with FIFA Women's World Cup semi-finalists France visiting Dublin five days later and Scotland and Israel also in the section.

"France will be very, very tough, one of the top nations obviously," Ronan told "It could have been Germany, I suppose, let's put it that way! Scotland, it's good to get other home nations but they will be very tough, they've progressed a lot over the years. They've been knocking on the door of qualifying for major tournaments so we won't take them lightly."

From the squad that reached the 2010 U17 final in Switzerland, losing on penalties to Spain after inflicting Germany's first-ever defeat in the competition, Ronan has been able to promote Dora Gorman and Megan Campbell into a senior group whose players are based not only in Ireland but also England, Iceland, the United States, Norway and Sweden. Ronan has also had other now emerging talents in her U19 squad, so is confident the success achieved under King can be built on.

"Under Noel we were very unlucky in Iceland in the play-off, but we're progressing, underage we're doing well, so hopefully maybe in the next couple of years we'll see those players coming through," Ronan said. "[The U17 run] lets the other girls see that no game is lost before you go out. Our U17s beating Germany, who everybody previously thought was invincible, proved a point. So the seniors certainly take heart from that."