THE Republic of Ireland Women's Under 19 head coach, Dave Connell, has included Mayo native Rachel Baynes in a 20-player squad for a double-header against Italy.
Connell's side will travel to Rome for the two international friendlies, which take place on January 17 and January 19 at the Olympic Center Giulio Onesti.
Baynes, from Newport, played for Castlebar Celtic in her younger days before being snapped up by Galway Women's FC.
The squad features a big number of Galway players, including Sadhbh Doyle, Leah Brady, Lucia Lobato, Chloe Singleton, Aoife Thompson and Sinead Donovan, in addition to Baynes.
These matches mark the start of the girls' preparations for the UEFA European Championships elite round phase, which take place in April. Ireland will face Spain, Serbia and Hungary as they look to qualify for the finals in Scotland in July.
Connell's squad cruised through the qualifying round last October against the Faroe Islands, Lithuania and Ukraine, scoring 13 goals in the three matches.
Now, head coach Connell is looking forward to the games against Italy. “It should provide a valuable test with the qualifiers coming up in April,” he said.
Connell added: “It's important every player is working towards their very best with the elite round coming up in April. We've got fantastic competition for places with so many players playing so well across the Women's National League.
“These two games will give the players a real opportunity to cement their place in that elite round squad as we look forward to having a successful 2019.”
The full squad is as follows: Erica Turner (DLR Waves), Rachael Kelly (Shelbourne); Sadhbh Doyle (Galway Women's), Roisin McGovern (DLR Waves), Rachel Baynes (Galway Women's), Doireann Fahey (Wexford Youths), Aoife Slattery (Wexford Youths), Leah Brady (Galway Women's), Katie Burdis (DLR Waves); Lucia Lobato (Galway Women's), Megan Mackey (Brighton & Hove Albion), Chloe Singleton (Galway Women's), Aoife Thompson (Galway Women's), Amy Boyle-Carr (Sion Swifts), Sinead Donavan (Galway Women's); Ciara Fowler (unattached), Alannah McEvoy (Shelbourne), Carla McManus (Kilkenny United), Keelin McEntee (DLR Waves), Kelly Brady (World Class).
The games will be played at 1.30 p.m. and 10 a.m. (Irish time) respectively on Thursday, January 17, and Saturday, January 19.