Peamount United will travel to France to take on the financial might of PSG on Monday morning with the winds of hope flying their sails. The Dublin side trail their counterparts 2-0 after losing the first leg in Shamrock Rovers Tallaght Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Pea's, the first Irish side ever to make the latter stages of a European club competition, provided very good value for their partisan home crowd and matched PSG woman for woman until the French professional side's superior stamina and physicality kicked on as the game wore on.
In fact, Peamount should have been ahead before substitute Nora Coton-Pelagi's speculative shot found the bottom corner of Linda Meehan's goal after taking a huge deflection off Louise Quinn who had tried to block the shot.
Sara Lawlor and Quinn both went close in the space of a couple of minutes in an extremely tight first half. Firstly Lawlor, who put in a sterling performance as the Pea's loan striker, forced Veronique Pons into making a smart save at her near post after she had ghosted past the tackle of PSG's captain Lea Rubio.
The resulting corner was whipped in at incredible pace by the impressive Steph Roche and with the goal at her mercy Louise Quinn seemingly headed over with Pons beaten.
However, after talking to the midfielder after the match it became apparent that Laure Lepailleur had reached the ball just a fraction of a second before the Irish international to make a dramatic clearance.
After the match Quinn said "I wished I had touched it because I know I would have scored, but she just got there ahead of me."
It was just one of a whole string of last ditch saves by Lepailleur during the match with the French star easily standing out as PSG's best player on the night.
Quinn for her part was equally as impressive and patrolled midfield superbly with the aid of Roche, on loan Doncaster Belle, Aine O'Gorman, Ruth Comerford and Wendy McGlone.
The Pea's manager, Eileen Gleeson made a couple of early changes in the second half in an effort at introducing some more energy to her side but the phenomenal exertions of a match against a professional side eventually took their toll as PSG went on to dominate the late exchanges with two late goals.
"We knew what their shape would be like and what they would do and we set our tactics out to get to them. But the two late goals really caught us, especially the last one in added time. We're unhappy at falling asleep with that one."Getting to the knock out stages of a European competition is an historic achievement for Irish football, no other side has ever progressed as far and despite the loss, that this is where she and Peamount will aspire to be from now on.
"It was great in playing in a game like this. We've never seen such a big crowd except in an international game. Playing against teams like that [PSG] was just so special. You'd love to be playing against teams like that every week, this is the highest level you can get at club level apart from the final.Looking forward to the return leg in Paris on October 5 and upbeat Quinn remained confident of turning the tie around saying;
"It's only half-time and I know it's 2-0 and we should have kept it 0-0 or 1-0 but it'll be a huge game next week and we'll come out all guns blazing because we have a chance."Eileen Gleeson, the Pea's manager spoke at length after the game and said that the second goal in injury time had really taken its toll on her team after its fantastic effort.
"Overall we're very disappointed with the second goal. It came three minutes into injury time and I was saying to the girls to just lock it up. But we were a little nervous and just got caught out.
"The girls are so disappointed with the second goal. It would have been so much easier to go away with just one goal behind but we're going to throw everything at them [in the return leg].
"But I thought we showed great strength and stamina against a professional side and to get caught so late... Their quality showed and we're coming off the back of a long season while they're just finished pre-season.While Gleeson was thoroughly impressed with the overall performance of her own team she reserved special praise for Sara Lawlor who plowed a lone furrow up front all night.
"She was really excellent, she covered a lot of ground and that pitch is really big when you're out there on your own. She got caught out with a few off-sides but overall she was excellent."The crowd, a record 2,109 for Peamount really made a difference when PSG started to gain a foothold in the game and Gleeson was quick to heap praise and thanks on their support.
"The support was really just phenomenal. To get over 2,000 at a game is just amazing and I'd just like to say thanks to everyone."Eventually the conversation gets around to the growing shadow that Irish teams have always had to compete with, bigger teams coming in to poach their players.
While a game like this Last-32 against PSG brings huge prestige to the league and Peamount in particular it also represents an opportunity for scouts from professional leagues in America and England to watch the talent on show.
"That's always there," she says. "We'll always be competing with scholarships to America and with girls going over to the Super League in England but our own National League will be critical and now that is in place. So that gives our players more of a chance to play at the elite level in the future."
"But, the best players are going to want to play with the best clubs and with [our] excellent facilities, excellent structure and brilliant underage section, we are going to attract those kind of players [in Ireland].Just like her captain, Quinn, Gleeson remains optimistic about the Pea's chances next week.
"We'll watch the game and go over things that we can improve, little mistakes like off-sides and things, those are things we can correct straight away and we'll look to improve in the areas where they were stronger."Peamount may be down, but they are definitely not out of this tie just yet.
"We matched them in a lot of places and we can get at them next week."