Diane Caldwell on the ball for Ireland in October. Tom Maher/INPHO
Ireland WNT

Missing out at World Cup 'really, really hurt me' - Diane Caldwell on Pauw fallout

Ireland centurion felt under more pressure to perform after her comments on Pauw’s management.

IRELAND CENTURION DIANE Caldwell says she felt under more pressure to perform after her comments about former manager Vera Pauw.

Caldwell, who had been in and out of the team under Pauw and made just one late substitute appearance at the World Cup, said that “the results and performances that we got were in spite of Vera being our coach”.

The experienced defender has since been reinstated as a starting centre-back under Pauw’s replacement Eileen Gleeson.

Asked if she felt more pressure after making those comments last September, 35-year-old Caldwell said: “Yeah possibly, but you know what? My thinking was, I missed out on playing at the biggest stage at the World Cup and that really, really hurt me.

“When Eileen came in and gave me the chance to start I just wanted to enjoy playing again. I just wanted to embrace having the jersey on my back again, playing in front of the Irish fans.

“A big moment for me was the Aviva game [against Northern Ireland]. I really wanted to do it for myself, to focus on things I can control, focus on playing well, and enjoying being out there with the girls again, because honestly, I really missed that for a long time.”

In September, Caldwell also revealed that herself and captain Katie McCabe addressed issues with former FAI High Performance Director Ruud Dokter after the European Championship qualifying campaign in 2020, which “fell on deaf ears”.

Speaking on Monday, fellow veteran defender Niamh Fahey said “it’s quite clear that there were issues in the past”.

“But everyone is comfortable with where we are at now and if there ever needs to be an issue addressed everyone knows the correct channels.”

diane-cadwell-comes-on-for-niamh-fahey Caldwell replacing Niamh Fahey in the 95th minute of the Nigeria game for her World Cup debut. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Caldwell, who plays for Swiss table-toppers FC Zurich — says she has unfinished business in terms of featuring prominently at a major tournament as the Euro 2025 qualifiers move into full view.

“You always want to be playing, you always want to be qualifying for tournaments, that’s been my goal since I first started playing for Ireland all those years ago. So obviously that’s a big goal, that never changes regardless of the situation or the circumstances.”

While Caldwell previously stated she had not contemplated retirement after the World Cup, the 101-cap international admits life after football has been on her mind of late.

She is pursuing coaching qualifications, and could see herself getting involved in in a non-playing FAI role when her playing days come to an end.

“It’s something I’ve thought about, something I’ve tried to equip myself for that terrible time when you have you hang to up your boots. I’ve been doing coaching licences, starting pathways to get ready for that next stage.

“What sort of area I’d like to go in, we’ll see what happens. I’m very interested in the actual coaching, being on the grass, being with players on one-on-one basis. I couldn’t see myself in that [Head of Women and Girls' Football] position but you can never know in football what doors may open up. With time, your opinion, or opportunities might change, I’m open to anything.

“Obviously, I definitely want to give back to football, especially in Ireland. That is really important for me. I’m very passionate about that, to develop the next generation and the younger age groups because I hope with what I’ve experienced, that maybe I can help in some way. It’s definitely something I’m thinking about.”

But for now, the Balbriggan native is firmly focused on reaching another major tournament in the next European Championships. Ireland’s preparation begins with friendlies away to Italy on Friday, and Wales at Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday.

“We just want to be successful long term. Qualifying regularly for tournaments is what I see as long-term success, not just being a one-off.

“I feel we can achieve that, even though we’re a small country. We have the structures in place now whereby we can go on and achieve that long-term.” 

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