Jessie Stapleton on France and England qualifiers: ‘We’re Irish. We don’t go down without a fight. We’re going to be hard to beat but we’re going to bring our game onto them’

Jessie Stapleton in action for Ireland against Italy in Tallaght in February 2024

Jessie Stapleton in action for Ireland against Italy in Tallaght in February 2024 Credit: Eddie Lennon (ETPhotos)

Macdara Ferris reports from the Ireland training camp in Dublin

The reward for Ireland’s Nations League success last year, winning six League B games out of six, has been promotion to League A and the most difficult European Championship qualification draw as possible.

Ireland start their EURO 2025 campaign away to France on Friday before hosting European Champions England at the Aviva next week. Home and away fixtures will follow against Sweden who finished third in the World Cup.

For 19-year-old Jessie Stapleton, they are games that she is relishing. “It’s very exciting,” said Stapleton about the upcoming double header. “For myself, I think it’s probably one of the best camps to be a part of, playing against two top teams. We’re ready to go.

“We’re Irish, we don’t go down without a fight. We’re going to show up, we’re going to be hard to beat but then again we’re going to bring our game onto them. 

“We’re good footballers. There’s a lot of great experience in the team. Each year we get better and better, the squad is more competitive than ever now so I think we can go out and put up a good game.”

The 19-year-old started Ireland’s last two matches under Eileen Gleeson – the friendlies against Italy and Wales – but now has a chance to play against some of the biggest names in the women’s game.

“It was great to get game time and make my first start,” said Stapleton about her debut start away in Italy when speaking to the media at the Ireland team hotel on Easter Monday. “There’s a lot of competition in the squad but I think that makes it even better. We all push each other on. 

Stapleton is a player who has progressed through the levels of football in Ireland, moved across to play her club football in England and deservedly has her place in the Ireland squad for the upcoming EURO 2025 qualifiers.

“It feels like it was only yesterday (playing in the DDSL with Cherry Orchard). It’s flown in. Then I went to League of Ireland underage (with Peamount United and Shamrock Rovers), League of Ireland seniors (with Shelbourne), then moved over to England. It’s happened so quick but obviously I’m delighted to be here. Without any of those experiences I wouldn’t be here.”

Having moved to WSL club West Ham United after helping Shels to the double in 2022, she is currently on loan with Championship club Reading.

Ireland play in Metz on Friday before welcoming England to the Aviva Stadium. Stapleton has been to both to the Aviva as an Ireland supporter (of the men’s side) and out to Tallaght to support the women’s team.

Now she is looking to get the chance to perform on the pitch for the Girls in Green on Lansdowne Road after the focus switches from Friday's game against France.

“You can’t really overlook France because they’re a big team, its going to be a hard game so we’re going to focus on that first but plying at the Aviva against England is going to be class as well. Hopefully we get a good amount of fans for that.”

“I was always at the Aviva, my Da brought me to loads of games, but even in Tallaght I was still young enough when we (Ireland) moved there so even if I’m not the squad I go to any games I can. I’ve always been a fan of the country.”

The squad Eileen Gleeson has chosen for these upcoming matches has no domestic players in it. Stapleton, who came through the league here, acknowedges the talent in the League of Ireland but noted that there is a big step up to international football.

“Well I think the League of Ireland is a great place. There’s a lot of talent in it, but it is a massive step up. It’s only when you take that step you realise how different it is. I feel like there’s a lot of competitiveness in the squad. Eileen is going to pick the best 26 players.

"If that’s  in the WSL, if it’s in the Championship, if it’s around the world, she’s going to pick the players she feels are best. I don’t think it’s anything to do with them playing in the League of Ireland. She just has to pick the best players for that camp.”