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'Feels like yesterday making my first' - 50th Irish cap for Arsenal star as World Cup qualifiers loom

Katie McCabe reached the half century mark against Belgium on Sunday.

Katie McCabe in action against Belgium.
Katie McCabe in action against Belgium.
Image: Patrick Smets/INPHO

IRELAND CAPTAIN KATIE McCabe says she feels honoured and proud after earning her 50th senior cap for her country at the age of 25.

McCabe, who made her international debut in 2015, reached the half century mark in her side’s 1-0 friendly defeat to Belgium on Sunday as part of their preparations for the 2023 World Cup qualifiers in September.

The draw for those qualifiers will be taking place at the end of the month.

McCabe says she would have preferred to mark her 50th cap with a victory in Brussels, but was still delighted to accept the accolade.

“I’m obviously very proud,” the Arsenal star told the FAI after the clash with Belgium.

“It feels like yesterday making my first, but I’m honoured to captain this country and to be receiving my 50th cap. It would have been sweeter to end it with a win but I’m delighted.

“It’s thanks to the managers. Sue Ronan bringing me in at the start, Colin Bell putting the trust in me to be able to go and put a performance in for Ireland. I kept my head down and built on that each time I came in to represent my country.

“I love it, I love coming in and meeting with the girls and playing for Ireland. So hopefully keep ticking on and building towards that major tournament that we want to get to.”

McCabe was first named as the Ireland skipper in 2017 under then-manager Colin Bell as the successor to Emma Byrne after her retirement.

McCabe was just 21 at the time but has excelled in the leadership role.

“To captain your country is the absolute highest honour,” she added.

“So for me to be able to do it at such a young age fills me with pride every time. I’m very lucky to be able to do it but as I said, I want to be leading us to major tournaments hopefully in the coming years.”

Ireland’s defeat to Belgium is their second friendly loss in a row this week, having also falling short against Denmark. But Vera Pauw’s side produced encouraging displays in both games, and proved their ability to perform against higher-ranked nations.

Ireland failed to score in either tie but McCabe is thrilled with the progress they have made ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.

“Yeah, obviously frustrating not to get something out of the game, especially at the end. Vera made a few changes and I think we opened them up a little. I think we’re getting closer. There’s obviously a lot to build on but a lot of positives to take from the two games this week.

“It’s great to have this window to do that in the lead-up to the World Cup campaign. We’ve got a lot of players that haven’t had a lot of game time so it’s great that they can get some games at this level.”

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claire-walsh-and-aine-oogorman Peamount United's Claire Walsh and Áine O'Gorman at Ireland training. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ireland defender Claire Walsh echoed her captain’s sentiments and said that scoring more goals is the next level of progression they need to aim for.

Walsh plies her club trade with Peamount United but was impressive throughout against Belgium, lasting until the 83rd minute when she was replaced by Louise Quinn. Her performance illustrated the kind of ability that exists in Ireland’s domestic league.

“It’s a credit to the Women’s National League, it’s a credit to the clubs. I think it showed in the last few games that players in the Women’s National League are capable of making the step up. I think it’s positive for the league as well.

“It just shows the importance of a league and that we need to keep developing it.

“I’m really happy with Peamount and you can see the likes of Áine [O'Gorman], you have a lot of really good players that have come through the Women’s National League. A lot of players are still in the Women’s National League so it’s positive all round.”

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