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Arsenal boss hails Irish 'gems' McCabe and Quinn as Gunners end title drought

Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro described the Republic of Ireland duo as ‘incredible players’ as they starred in a title-clinching win.

Arsenal and Ireland defender Louise Quinn.
Arsenal and Ireland defender Louise Quinn.
Image: David Davies

IRELAND CAPTAIN KATIE McCabe has hailed Arsenal’s Women’s Super League success as one of the best moments of her career after she scored in the 4-0 win over Brighton that clinched the title.

McCabe and Louise Quinn were once again instrumental in front of a record crowd at the Amex Stadium as they got the better of international team-mates Marie Hourihan and Megan Connolly.

Midfielder McCabe struck for the second goal with half an hour gone before the visitors added two more after half-time to be confirmed as English champions for the first time since 2012.

Brighton and Hove Albion Women v Arsenal Women - FA Women's Super League - AMEX Stadium Arsenal's Katie McCabe celebrates scoring her side's second goal of the match. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Afterwards, Gunners boss Joe Montemurro praised McCabe and Quinn as “incredible players” for his side, while McCabe expressed her pride at following in the footsteps of other Irish women who had won major silverware with the club.

“What I’ve always looked at – the likes of Emma Byrne, Ciara Grant, Yvonne Treacy on the TV lifting FA Cups for Arsenal – was what I wanted to do when I was older,” she told The42, champagne glass in her hand as post-match celebrations monetarily died down.

To come to this club – this amazing club – and be able to crown ourselves as league champions is really, really special. I don’t think it’s quite sunk it yet to be honest but it’s a very surreal experience at the minute.

Brighton and Hove Albion Women v Arsenal Women - FA Women's Super League - AMEX Stadium Louise Quinn heads towards goal. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Arsenal went into the game with a four-point cushion at the top of the standings but knowing that any slip-up would set up a title decider with unbeaten title rivals Manchester City on the final day.

Star striker Vivianne Miedema got an early opener before McCabe’s deft finish set the Gunners on course to finish first in Europe’s only full-time strictly professional league.

“It’s always nice to get on the scoresheet but I think once that first goal went in, when Viv scored, it was a little bit of a sigh of relief,” she said.

“The girls, the team we have, are such creative players. You always get at least one opportunity to get into that scoring position and lucky I finished it today.”

The 23-year-old from Kilnamanagh is a creative player herself, having chalked up 11 assists this season for the club she joined in 2015. And she’s clearly a determined one too, having had to earn her place in a top-quality side following a loan move to Glasgow City in August 2017.

Katie McCabe celebrates scoring their first goal McCabe scored against Italy earlier this month. Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

The Dubliner has not looked back since Australian coach Montemurro took over from Pedro Martinez Losa later that year.

“Coming from Raheny (United) – or Shelbourne at the time – that really shaped me into the player that hopefully I’ll become,” McCabe said. “The girls were great back home and I needed to take that leap forward.

“I always wanted to become a professional footballer, especially for a team like Arsenal. It didn’t go straight to plan – that’s just life I guess – with Pedro. I had to go out on loan and get some game time. I knew how important it was, not just for myself but for the national team, too, to be competing for 90 minutes.

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“And then I came back to Arsenal. There was a change of management. Joe’s given me that opportunity and I’ve definitely grasped it with both hands. You don’t get a second a chance like that [too often], especially at big clubs like this.

“But it’s been fantastic. I’ve really, really loved playing under Joe. With this team, with these girls, all our staff, they’ve been incredible all season. This has just topped it off today.”

The WSL victory means Arsenal also have Uefa Champions League football to look forward to next season, and Montemurro was full of praise for the part McCabe and Quinn played in that achievement.

Quinn was composed at the back and a regular threat from set pieces against Brighton, with the centre-back seeing a header cleared off the line in the first half.

“When I came and I saw Louise Quinn, they told me that she’s just a typical defender that wins the ball, and just plays it long and plays it into channels and stuff like that,” Montemurro told The42.

“And I said, ‘This ain’t going to happen the way we’re going to play.’

The growth of Louise, I mean I think she’s got the highest pass percentage in the WSL in terms of completed passes. OK, a lot of it is preparing for us to go forward – fair enough. But she’s unbelievable. She’s a ball-playing centre-back now. Plus with the attributes in the air, plus the tackling, plus the positioning… In 12 months she’s developed into a world-class defender.

“And Katie McCabe… She’s another intelligent player that we’ve got in the team. A very intelligent player that creates space for other people. Understands positioning, understands where she needs to be, understands when to take players on, understands when to pass the ball. They’re both gems, and both incredible players for our team.”

Brighton and Hove Albion Women v Arsenal Women - FA Women's Super League - AMEX Stadium Brighton and Ireland's Megan Connolly warms up before today's kick-off. Source: Mark Kerton

Brighton midfielder Connolly worked hard to try and contain the champions elect, and afterwards her manager Hope Powell backed her to “grow as a player” next season. The Cork native only joined the Seagulls in January after finishing up a scholarship in Florida.

“I’m only 22 – I still want to grow and develop every aspect I can of my game,” Connolly said. “I’m not settled with where I am right now. Everyone should be looking to be getting better every day and especially playing teams like Arsenal you test yourself.”

The Ireland international is also taking inspiration from McCabe and Quinn, who she thinks have developed hugely as players since moving to London.

“Katie, seeing her not be in the squad, move out go somewhere else, come back and she’s one of the key players this year,” Connolly said.

“I think for anyone in Ireland and anyone playing in this league to see what’s she’s done – and how she’s developed – definitely can push you on.”

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Ireland captain McCabe scores as Arsenal secure Women’s Super League in front of record crowd

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Mark Rodden

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