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'Very disappointing' - Ireland boss says colleges won't release key players for crunch Euro qualifier

Heather Payne and Harriet Scott are not available for their side’s clash with Greece next week.

Ireland WNT manager Vera Pauw.
Ireland WNT manager Vera Pauw.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRELAND WOMEN’S MANAGER Vera Pauw says it’s “very disappointing” that key players Heather Payne and Harriet Scott have apparently not been released by their colleges for their Euro 2021 qualifier against Greece.

Payne is a student at Florida State, while Scott is attending Keele University in England.

Both players are a significant loss to the Girls in Green, who are two wins from two in their Euro qualifying campaign.

Pauw says she only received notification last week that the pair would be unavailable for the away fixture next Tuesday, and adds that both players are disappointed to miss out.

“Heather Payne and Harriet Scott cannot come because their colleges and universities will not give them permission to represent your country,” Pauw told the media at today’s Ireland squad announcement.

“They [the players] are very disappointed. They’ve tried everything to get here. We cannot blame the players at all.”

heather-payne Heather Payne in action for Ireland against the Ukraine. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Speaking more specifically about the difficulties arising from playing football for US-based colleges, Pauw added:

They see it as an individual thing but for a college that gives a scholarship for football, getting one of the players because she is in the international team set up, and then stopping her from going to the national team is something that’s very disappointing.

“Everyone knows the Fifa dates and when you have a scholarship, you should be released. But the colleges in the US are not related to Fifa, and not under the Fifa umbrella so they don’t have to release the players.

“You only play two months [and] you don’t play football the rest of the year. During those two months, you’re overloaded. You need to play two or three games a week, there’s hardly a pre-season. It’s two or three weeks of a pre-season. And then you have to go with constant changing during the game.

“It’s just running, fighting, running, running, running. And you don’t learn anything. 

“It’s very disappointing. It’s the reality of college football.”

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Pauw also claimed that she tried to speak to the respective colleges directly about securing the services of Payne and Scott, but was refused.

I was not allowed, not even allowed to receive a phone number for both,” she said.

“I’ve seen this issue in many situations. They promise golden mountains and that they’ll release players for international duty, but that’s the coach promising that. And then the professor says you cannot go, otherwise ‘we stop your scholarship.’

“The players have no choice.”

harriet-scott Harriet Scott on the ball against Montenegro. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

In addition to losing Payne and Scott, Ireland will also be without Megan Campbell, Megan Connolly and Courtney Brosnan for the tip to Panionios, Athens.

Pauw explained that Manchester City’s Campbell has picked up a concussion and will be seen by a neurologist later this week. Connolly, who plies her trade with Brighton, is ruled out with a quad injury, while goalkeeper Brosnan has suffered a thigh problem.

Eight home-based players have been included in the squad for next Tuesday’s game [kick-off, 1pm Irish time], including Rianna Jarrett, who featured in Wexford Youths’ FAI Cup triumph at the weekend.

Ireland, who are looking to reach a first-ever major tournament, got their European qualification campaign off to a winning start against Montenegro in September.

They followed that up with a hard-fought 3-2 victory against the Ukraine last month in front of a record crowd of 5,328 at Tallaght Stadium.

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