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Katie McCabe celebrates her hat-trick goal with Denise O'Sullivan and Sinead Farrelly. Tom Maher/INPHO

Katie McCabe hat-trick and Kyra Carusa brace see Ireland cruise past Albania

Diane Caldwell won her 100th cap in the 5-1 win at Tallaght Stadium.

Republic of Ireland 5

Albania 1

THE PHRASE ‘KATIE McCabe only scores bangers’ has been thrown around time and time again in recent weeks.

While not all falling in that category, the Republic of Ireland captain did what she does best tonight, putting group minnows Albania to the sword with a brilliant hat-trick and two assists. 

The similarly in-form Kyra Carusa also bagged a quick-fire brace as Ireland’s bright start to the Uefa Nations League continued with another routine win. That’s three victories from three for interim head coach Eileen Gleeson and although sitting pretty atop Group B1, on track for promotion, they’ll be frustrated with the lack of clean sheet.

The first clash of a double-header was billed a sell-out, but the 5,752 attendance at Tallaght Stadium fell well short of that — not helped by the awkward 5.45pm kick-off time.

But the Girls In Green, wearing white on this occasion, gave the crowd plenty to shout about after previous wins over Northern Ireland (3-0) and Hungary (4-0). Albeit again, this was against significantly lower-ranked opposition, with Albania 48 places lower in the Fifa World Rankings at 72nd.

Gleeson made three changes to her XI. Connolly was restored to midfield, with Abbie Larkin and Izzy Atkinson also handed starts. The rising duo played out wide in a 3-5-2, with Diane Caldwell winning her 100th cap as captain in central defence and regular skipper McCabe joining Carusa in a more advanced attacking role. Heather Payne, Lucy Quinn and Amber Barrett missed out on the matchday squad, the former pair reportedly carrying niggles. “Football decisions,” Gleeson explained afterwards.

katie-mccabe-celebrates-after-scoring-her-sides-first-goal-of-the-match-with-abbie-larkin McCabe celebrates after scoring Ireland's first goal with Abbie Larkin. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

It took McCabe just four minutes to get her name on the scoresheet. The Ballon d’Or nominee has been enjoying a rich vein of club form with Arsenal, only scoring bangers, as the saying goes, but this was a tap-in. Larkin was the provider from the right, McCabe’s first touch almost got away from her but she made no mistake in lifting the ball over Viona Rexhepi.

Three minutes later, Tallaght was silenced as Albania bagged a shock equaliser through captain Megi Doci. Arbenita Currak sent a teasing ball into the box, the Irish defenders were caught flat-footed and Doci smashed past Courtney Brosnan.

A real lull followed. While Atkinson was a bright spark down the left, Ireland were quite disjointed and made several unforced errors. They dropped off and left a huge gap around the middle. Qendresa Krasniqi ran the show for Albania, who certainly didn’t park the bus.

Ireland still dominated, with Caldwell rattling the bar and Rexhepi denying Carusa on the follow-up. It eventually showed on the scoreboard, when McCabe made it 2-1 in the 26th minute. This edged more towards the ‘bangers’ category, but did take a huge deflection off Alma Hila.

mikaela-metalla-and-izzy-atkinson Albania's Mikaela Metalla and Izzy Atkinson. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

The half petered out, Ireland wasting some decent platforms from free-kicks and Connolly (blazed over), McCabe (saved) and Toland (wide) miscuing before the break.

They found their range on the restart, playing with more intent and increased attacking flair. Caldwell slung threatening passes from defence, finding McCabe down the left channel and she kept Rexhepi on her toes time and time again. The Albania ‘keeper batted away one of her corners, before producing a superb reflex save to deny a Louise Quinn header.

Then came Carusa’s three-minute double just before the hour-mark. The first was a brilliant chipped finish, the second was a composed header, with McCabe the provider for both — a winding, breakaway run from right-back and a simple through ball, before a pinpoint cross. But the double was all about the San Diego striker, who is in the form of her life with four Ireland goals in three games.

kyra-carusa-celebrates-after-scoring-her-sides-fourth-goal-of-the-match Kyra Carusa celebrates after scoring Ireland's fourth. Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland smelled blood and laid siege on the Albania goal thereafter. Caldwell and Caitlin Hayes cleaned up at the back, Erin McLaughlin and Sinead Farrelly impressed off the bench, and almost everyone had a go for a goal.

None more so than McCabe, who desperately chased her hat-trick amidst a flurry of Albania yellow cards. It arrived in the 81st minute; this one a definite banger, a beautifully-curled free-kick greatly appreciated by the Tallaght crowd.

They embraced centurion Caldwell as she was substituted, and chanted, ‘We’ve got McCabe’.

She only scores bangers.

With more expected to follow when the sides do battle again in Shkodër on Halloween night.

IRELAND: Courtney Brosnan; Diane Caldwell (Chloe Mustaki 82), Louise Quinn, Caitlin Hayes; Izzy Atkinson (Erin McLaughlin 57), Denise O’Sullivan, Megan Connolly (Sinead Farrelly 57), Tyler Toland, Abbie Larkin (Jamie Finn 71); Katie McCabe, Kyra Carusa (Emily Whelan 82).

ALBANIA: Viona Rexhepi; Lucie Gjini, Arbenita Curraj (Armela Tukaj 89), Sara Maliqi, Mikaela Metalla (Mimoza Hamodi 55); Ezmiralda Franja, Qendresa Krasniqi (Matilda Gjergji 89), Gresa Berisha; Alma Hila, Kristina Maksuti (Valentina Troka 84), Megi Doci.

Referee: Lizzy Van Der Helm (Netherlands).

Written by Emma Duffy and posted on

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