'You want to lead your team out there' - Euros fever puts 'fire in belly' of Katie McCabe

The Ireland captain has no shortage of motivation ahead of tonight’s crunch World Cup qualifier.

Ireland captain Katie McCabe speaking at yesterday's pre-match press conference.
Ireland captain Katie McCabe speaking at yesterday's pre-match press conference.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I’M SICK OF looking at them,” Katie McCabe laughs.

The Republic of Ireland captain is asked about seeing a lot of Euro 2022 winner’s medals at Arsenal. Her response is a tongue-in-cheek one, but one can sense the sincerity too.

Not that the Dubliner needs any, but the extra motivation it gives to strive for more.

Tonight, McCabe will lead her Ireland team out to a sold-out Tallaght Stadium as the World Cup dream hits new heights against Finland. Win, and the Girls In Green will secure a play-off spot, as they target a first-ever major tournament.

It’s been a case of so close, yet so far, for McCabe and co. in the past, and there’s a real sense that the time is now to break new ground.

Living in London, the 26-year-old spent enough time this summer watching from the stands. On the outside, looking in.

“I went to a lot of the Euros games, went to a few of the England games to support my team-mates. And obviously, I am delighted for them, delighted for the girls, Leah [Williamson], Beth [Mead], Lotte [Wubben-Moy]… Rafa [Souza] winning the Copa America too with Brazil.

“You know what, I hadn’t to a game as a fan in donkey’s. A lot of the games were on our doorstep, so to actually go to a game and sample the atmosphere. I went to all the Dutch games…”

An interjection from manager Vera Pauw on her left-hand side: Why you are looking at me?

“Cos you are Dutch. Oh, you are Irish now, sorry,” McCabe grins, before continuing:

“Went with all the Dutch fans, the atmosphere they were creating before the games. It was absolutely brilliant, couldn’t fault it, but I think one of my favourite games was the Germany-France semi-final, that was a fantastic game. That was unbelievable and we went on to see the Euros final, which was great as well.”

Herself and partner and Ireland team-mate, Ruesha Littlejohn, also took in Finland-Denmark at MK Dons, a close eye ran over their play-off rivals.

dagenham-england-may-08-back-row-katie-mccabe-of-arsenal-leah-williamson-of-arsenal-vivianne-miedema-of-arsenal-steph-catley-of-arsenal-l McCabe with her Arsenal team. Source: Alamy Stock Photo

McCabe looks at the Euros through a few different prisms: from an Arsenal and Women’s Super League [WSL] perspective, from an Irish viewpoint, and then the bigger women’s football picture.

Williamson, Mead, Wubben-Moy and their gold medals “bring that winners’ mentality back into the team” at the Gooners, Jonas Eidevall’s side without a trophy for quite some time now.

“To have those sort of winners to come back into the team, it brings it up a level and brings that extra edge to what we need ahead of the WSL season,” McCabe nods.

“It was a great buzz, great for the league and great for women’s football in England and hopefully it keeps growing and growing here too.”

And most importantly for this Irish team, does it whet the appetite and put that fire in the belly to etch their own names into history and join the party?

“100%. Going and seeing your team-mates at the Euros is great, but you ultimately want to be there leading your team out there at the end of the day. And knowing that some of the girls have already qualified, it does create that fire in your belly and have that determination to achieve that with your team.

“Hopefully we do that with Ireland. It would be an incredible feeling to achieve that with the team and squad, but obviously, the full focus is on Finland tomorrow. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

There’s a funny moment when McCabe is asked about the Arsenal Lionesses being honoured at the Premier League game against Fulham on Sunday. Their Irish star wasn’t spotted, but she confirms she was present, not forgotten amidst the frenzy.

“They know I am there, I make myself known!”

That, she certainly does. The world-class left-sided star is one of the biggest names in women’s football, having established herself as a force to be reckoned with for club and country in recent years.

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katie-mccabe-leads-out-her-side McCabe leading her Ireland team out in Georgia. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

She talks the talk, walks the walk; a character on and off the pitch.

Cool as a cucumber, this seismic game no different to any other.

“No, look for us, it’s another game towards what we want to achieve which is reaching the play-off of the World Cup,” McCabe nods.

“We’re relaxed. We know what’s at stake for us. Each game has been as important as the last one. We’re looking for three points in order to get a play-off position. Since we’ve been here, we’re enjoying each other’s company, catching up over coffees. We’re very relaxed but we also know the pressure that is on this game.”

Expectation is through the roof, it’s fair to say; best seen through a sold-out Tallaght Stadium. With all tickets snapped up within 30 minutes of going on sale and watch parties planned in all corners, it’s the hottest show in town, and sure to smash the record attendance of 5,328 from Pauw’s first game in charge against Ukraine in October 2019.

McCabe grew up a stone’s throw away in Kilnamanagh, and speaks of her immense pride in leading the team out in Tallaght every single time.

Tonight may be that little bit extra special.

“It is going to be incredible,” she smiles. “We always wanted a sell-out here. I hope everyone who has a ticket turns up and comes and supports us because we need everyone behind us for 90 minutes-plus.

“Personally, it is just another game here at Tallaght Stadium, leading the girls out and making sure we get the result. It will be an incredible atmosphere with friends and family in the crowd but ultimately all that matters when you cross the white line is the football.”


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Emma Duffy

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