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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019
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'All the players stay out afterwards and want to thank everyone for coming. We love it'

3,423 fans turned out as Ireland opened their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign at Tallaght Stadium last night.

Louise Quinn celebrates with fans after the game.
Louise Quinn celebrates with fans after the game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THERE MAY HAVE been a fair amount of rain before kick-off, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the 3,423 fans who turned out to cheer on Ireland in their opening Euro 2021 qualifier last night at Tallaght Stadium.

With caretaker boss Tom O’Connor at the helm before ex-Dutch coach Vera Pauw’s permanent appointment this morning, the Girls in Green were 2-0 winners over a dogged Montenegro outfit who came to Dublin and parked the bus. 

18-year-old Manchester City midfielder Tyler Toland and captain Katie McCabe grabbed the goals in each half and although many had hoped for a goal-fest on home soil, three points, a clean sheet, job done was the unanimous message afterwards.

As the media gathered in the tunnel outside Shamrock Rovers’ home ground, young fans peaked through holes in the wall and anywhere they could to catch a glimpse of their heroes. 

Hi Katie, they shouted at the Irish skipper, who they could see inside preparing for her media duties. These same fans, surely, kept the team on the pitch after the full-time whistle, asking for autographs and selfies, with the players duly obliging, as always.

The post-match interviews were fairly routine: how a win and a clean sheet were the main thing, how a few more goals would have been nicer considering top seeds Germany scored 18 in their opening two games, and of course, plenty on the managerial situation, which is now resolved.

For 23-year-old McCabe, it was a particularly special night. Brought up in Kilnamanagh, just a stone’s throw away from the stadium, she brilliantly dispatched a 68th-minute penalty to a huge cheer from the home crowd.

So that was an obvious talking point.

“I liked that,” the skipper smiled afterwards. “I like the pressure of taking penalties. For me, we needed to get that bit of breathing space and get that second goal. It was coming, we were creating chances, I’m happy I tucked it away.”

And the crowd? To put that away that in front of a solid showing so close to home must have been a lovely moment.

“It was great, I think there was like three and-a-half thousand maybe here tonight which was absolutely amazing to see,” McCabe beamed, unsure of the official number at the time.

louise-quinn-celebrates-with-a-fan-after-the-game Katie McCabe with fans afterwards. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I was delighted. You have all the young girls screaming and shouting and that’s what you want. You want them to be able to see that they have that opportunity to be a professional footballer.

Like myself, I used to go to Inchicore and watch the national team play back in the day. Obviously part of the 20×20 campaign, if you can’t see it you can’t be it and I’m happy the girls are coming out and they can see that they can become a professional footballer if they want to.

Her Arsenal team-mate, Lousie Quinn, played a starring role at the back last night and echoed McCabe’s words as a 20×20 ambassador.

“Brilliant,” the Wicklow native grinned when the 3,423 attendance was put to her. “That’s a really good start for us and hopefully it starts to bring back more of a crowd. The next game coming up is a really, really big one for us. To have the game televised was huge too.

It just shows… all the players stay out afterwards and want to thank everyone for coming. As much joy as we hopefully bring to the kids, we love it as well. We love seeing people’s reactions, hopefully making their day and seeing that they’re so excited to see us playing.

“A couple of the girls were saying that they don’t play on a team but they can’t wait to play football on a team now. That’s exactly what you want to hear. We want to be those role models for them.”

That, they most definitely are. 

As the clock neared 11pm and reporters filed out of the tunnel, we were met by a group of excited, cheering kids and their parents waiting patiently with programmes and pens in hand, and phones at the ready for a few more pictures.

Unfortunately for them, it was just us heading home but no doubt they waited for the players to leave for the team bus. One more autograph, one more selfie.

This is what it means; after all, it probably is about much more than the three points and the clean sheet.

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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