'Leading my country out in my hometown of Tallaght will be a really proud moment'

Ireland captain Katie McCabe will live her childhood dream this evening.

“TO PUT ON that armband and lead your country out into a World Cup qualifying match was something special and an indescribable feeling,” Katie McCabe told The42 in an in-depth conversation just before Christmas.

“I’m quite looking forward to doing it here in Tallaght, my hometown. April can’t come quick enough really.”

The day has finally arrived.

Katie McCabe Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

This evening, the Ireland captain will live another of her dreams and box off another truly special moment in the green jersey, aged just 22.

“It’s been a fantastic experience,” the Arsenal winger said when asked about her role as captain at the announcement of Aviva as the Ireland Women’s National Team’s (WNT) sponsor until 2021.

“As a young kid, it’s something you always aspire to do, to captain your country. The fact I can lead my country out in my hometown in Tallaght on Friday night will be a really proud moment for me and my family.”

McCabe grew up in Kilnamanagh, a five minute drive from Tallaght Stadium. One of 11 children, she laughs when she’s asked if the whole family will be there to cheer her on.

Katie McCabe Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Yeah, of course!” she grins. “I think I’ve made sure there’s about 30 or 40 tickets for them… I’ve quite a big family!

“But no, it’s been terrific. It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, as a kid. My first cap in Tallaght was obviously massive, but now to lead my country out in front of my friends, family and in my hometown, it’s going to be a really, really great day.”

The captaincy role is something she’s moulded and grown into since she succeeded the retired Emma Byrne last August. She credits senior players in squad and manager Colin Bell for helping, but the maturity she’s shown both on and off the pitch has been second to none.

Unbeaten after three away games in Group 3, the quest to reach a first major tournament continues as Ireland do battle in crucial back-to-back 2019 World Cup qualifiers in the coming days.

Denise O'Sullivan, Katie McCabe, Karren Duggan and Leanne Kiernan Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

They opened their campaign with a 2-0 win over Northern Ireland last September before beating Slovakia on the same scoreline in Senec the following month. The highlight so far came against The Netherlands though, as Ireland held the European champions to a 0-0 draw in front of 12,000 fans in Nijmegen.

In each fixture, McCabe was coolness personified, her hard work around the middle inspiring those around her as she created chances and rattled the net herself against Slovakia.

They’re the competition tonight. Seven points out of a possible nine under the belt, with six more, which are of huge importance in the grand scheme of things, up for grabs over the coming two outings. There’s no counting points though, it’s simple.

“We’re looking to win both games. For us, drawing or losing isn’t an option and we’re not counting points. There’s a long way to go in the group as well so we’re taking each game as it comes.

“Our total focus is obviously Slovakia and we’ll be looking to get all three points on Friday and then move on to The Netherlands.

“They’re (Slovakia) obviously an attacking team and they use the ball really, really well. In saying that, we’ve been looking at how we can use the ball well and exploit their weaknesses.

Source: Three Ireland/YouTube

“Every other team has weaknesses so that’s what we’ve been looking to do and seeing how we can counteract that.”

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It’s clearly evident that she’s enjoying life under Colin Bell with nothing but the height of praise for the Englishman, who’s also U17 head coach.

One player he’s integrated to the senior set-up from there is Donegal teenager Tyler Toland. She’s just 16 but earned herself a starting position over the course of the opening three clashes, proving influential throughout.

Toland was yesterday ruled out of the Slovakia and Netherlands meetings though after fracturing her wrist in training. This comes as another blow with key trio Stephanie Roche, Megan Campbell and Harriet Scott also sidelined.

That’s football though, McCabe nods, as she welcomes the returning Aine O’Gorman back into the fold: “We’ve obviously been unfortunate with the recent injuries we’ve had but the likes of Aine coming back into the squad is a positive.

N17303 Source: Nick Bradshaw

“We’ve a lot of great youngsters coming up that are ready to step up to the plate if needs be. I think that’s quite important to have that big squad incase of any injuries happening. That’s what we’ve proven so far and hopefully we’ll continue to do that.”

Back on home soil, McCabe’s ready to go. And to lead her country out in her hometime shortly before that all-important 5pm kick-off this evening.

“You know what, I was driving here in the taxi on the way and I was like, ‘I love being at home in Dublin,’” she smiles, when asked about coming home.

“But no, the fact that you can get home and see the fans behind us and using that 12th man, it’s going to be really, really massive for us on Friday and Tuesday. It’s been excellent.

“I mean there’s no pressure on the team, there’s nothing we’re not looking forward to.”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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