Nine stars of this season's Bus Eireann Women's National League are among those in Sue Ronan's Ireland squad which will travel to the Algarve Cup later this month.
Six league goals mean that Sara Lawlor of Peamount United is called up to the 24-player squad for the first time, while Emma Mullin will be also be hoping to win her first cap. Mullin, who was an unused substitute in the Euro 2013 qualifier against Israel, is in fine form up front this season for Castlebar Celtic with eight goals.
Second-placed Peamount United are the best-represented Irish club in the squad, with Dora Gorman, Stephanie Roche, Louise Quinn and Grace Murray joining Lawlor in the squad. Megan Campbell of league leaders Raheny United has also been selected, after impressing in defence in recent weeks. Marie Curtin and Denise O'Sullivan of Cork bring the domestic contingent to nine.
Aine O'Gorman and Julie-Ann Russell, who both recently signed for Doncaster Belles from Peamount, are among the foreign-based players in the squad. Ruesha Littlejohn of Liverpool and Sophie Perry of Chelsea have also been called up for the first time.
Littlejohn, a striker who represented Scotland at youth level, joined Liverpool last season from Glasgow City. Brighton-born Perry has been with Chelsea since 2006 and was impressive in defence last season as Chelsea finished 6th in the Women's Premier League.
Manager Sue Ronan will use the tournament partly to blood new players ahead of the upcoming Euro 2013 qualifying campaign. Speaking today, she was enthusiastic about the prospect of featuring so many Irish-based players. 'This time of year is always a problem for us in terms of the match-fitness of our players because some are only in pre-season with their clubs" Ronan said. "However for a change it's the opposite at home where our new Bus Eireann Women's National League is in full-swing and as a result, our home-based players are in tip-top shape!"
"Also the quality of the games these players are now getting on a weekly basis is a big plus and can only benefit the international teams in the coming years. Already it has led to Sara Lawlor, Peamount United FC, being named in the squad for the first time. Sara has played underage football for Ireland, but her outstanding performances in the WNL to date for her club, sees her included for the first time at this level.'
The squad will fly out to the Algarve on the 28th of February, where they will face Hungary a day later. Ireland's group also includes hosts Portugal and neighbours Wales in group C.
Group C will determine which teams place 7th-12th in this year's Algarve Cup, with the group winner facing a lower-ranked team from one of the other groups which include world champions Japan along with the teams ranked first and second in the world- the United States and Germany, respectively.
The USA have won four of the last five Algarve Cups and will be among the favourites again this time. They are in a tough group though, alongside much-fancied Japan, Norway and Denmark. The other pre-tournament favourites, Germany, are in group A with China PR, Sweden and Iceland.
This season's tournament is the 19th edition of the Algarve Cup, which is now established as one of the most prestigious international women's football tournaments.Sue Ronan will be hopeful that Ireland can go further than their previous-best finish of 10th in 2006. Ireland last competed in 2008, where they finished third in a group featuring Iceland, Portugal and Poland.
Arsenal's Ciara Grant, who is also named in this year's squad, scored both of Ireland's goals in 2008- one in the 4-1 defeat to Iceland and another to give Ireland a win against Poland. The competition also marks Ireland's last competitive outing before the crucial Euro 2013 qualifier against Scotland in April.
Ireland Squad, Algarve Cup 2012: Emma Byrne (Arsenal FC), Eve Badana (Drexel College), Grace Moloney (Reading FC), Yvonne Treacy (Arsenal FC), Louise Quinn (Peamount United FC), Megan Campbell (Raheny United FC), Sophie Perry (Chelsea FC), Grace Murray (Peamount United FC), Meabh De Burca (Amazon Grimstad FK), Niamh Fahey (Arsenal FC), Ciara Grant (Arsenal FC), Dora Gorman (Peamount United FC), Marie Curtin (Cork Women's FC), Julie Ann Russell (Doncaster Belles FC), Aine O'Gorman (Doncaster Belles FC), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United FC), Fiona O'Sullivan (Soyaux ASJ), Ruesha Littlejohn (Liverpool FC), Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad FK), Emma Mullin (Castlebar Celtic FC), Michele O'Brien (Chicago Red Eleven FC), Diane Caldwell (Avaldsnes FC), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United FC)
Niall Farrell is our correspondent at Tolka Park, covering the goings-on at Shelbourne. You can visit Niall's website for further information and contact details- niallf.net.