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McCarthy dreaming of Ireland glory in Norway

Savannah McCarthy lives and breathes football. She normally sleeps it, too, but the euphoria of the Republic of Ireland's progress in Norway has hampered that.

Savannah McCarthy (right) celebrates with fellow Ireland scorer Megan Connolly
Savannah McCarthy (right) celebrates with fellow Ireland scorer Megan Connolly ©Sportsfile

When the feel-good factor does not let up, even the triumphant need a break from euphoria.

Savannah McCarthy scored the Republic of Ireland's equaliser in Monday's final group game against Sweden, setting a platform for Megan Connolly to grab the winner. The defender treated herself to a necessary lie-in the morning after. "I couldn't get to sleep at all," she admits. "I just sat awake, grinning and reading through tweets and messages. It was just an unbelievable feeling."

Most footballers will be familiar with the difficulties of finding sleep after an evening match. It was, however, the lingering thrill of having progressed to the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship semi-finals rather than the residual energy which kept Ireland awake. From a group which featured former champions Spain, England and Sweden. With maximum points, no less.

"I think we all needed a rest in the morning. We were just buzzing afterwards. Recovery days have become just as much about giving ourselves a rest mentally as physically." A sing-song at the tournament hotel piano was just the trick, the squad crowding around for a rendition of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. It is becoming their anthem.

Savannah McCarthy outside tournament HQ
Savannah McCarthy outside tournament HQ©Sportsfile

Coach David Connell has credited Ireland's self-belief for their success to date. McCarthy, who is still only 17 and eligible to play at this level for a further two years, says it is a huge contributing factor. "I know it might sound like a cliche, but it's completely true. The way we believe in ourselves and perform for one another, because we are a really strong team, is great.

"It works. We came here to finish the group, and we've topped it, having started as the lowest seed. A lot of our families came over to watch, and they were there to cheer us on when we went one down to Sweden. I can't tell you how much of a boost it was. We're so grateful."

McCarthy (No3) celebrates at full time
McCarthy (No3) celebrates at full time©Sportsfile

Connell's charges now take on the Netherlands in Thursday's semi-final in Mjondalen. For McCarthy and her team-mates, it is business as usual in terms of preparation. Their confidence is evident, although McCarthy appreciates there's a fine line between this and complacency. "The belief we have is huge, as I say, but it's about focus as well. We can't get carried away, but I don't think there's a risk of that.

"We've already achieved something but now it's on to the next step, and that's reaching the final. There are only two games before we can become European champions."

Following this tournament, McCarthy hopes to step up to the Irish Women's National League and is now on the hunt for a club. "I am open to offers!" she smiles. "I spend all my time on football. Training, running, playing. I really do live for it, and while I know a lot of players will be planning careers in whatever they want to do, I don't want anything besides football.

"If I can't play professionally I'll work in football, in some way. I just love it."