Ireland captain Katie McCabe. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Ready to go

'We don't want this to be a once-off' - Katie McCabe on historic Aviva Stadium showdown

Over 38,000 tickets have been sold for tomorrow’s Nations League opener against Northern Ireland.

“38,000 IS PRETTY incredible, right?” Katie McCabe smiles, referencing the number of tickets sold for tomorrow’s Aviva Stadium showdown against Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland captain is sitting beside interim head coach Eileen Gleeson in the bowels of the Lansdowne Road venue.

The record home attendance of 7,633, set at Tallaght Stadium earlier this summer, will be smashed in tomorrow’s Uefa Nations League opener [KO 1pm, live on RTÉ 2] as the post-Vera Pauw era begins with an historic occasion.

“Who would thought we would be here off the back of a World Cup, playing the first-ever game here at the Aviva Stadium. I am hoping all 38,000 (fans) come tomorrow, I know those are the tickets sold. If you do have a ticket, come to the game, come and see us and support us.

“I was actually reminding Eileen in the car on the way here, the last goal I scored against her was here as well…”

“She has lived off that ever since, a flukey goal,” Gleeson laughs, remembering McCabe’s superb free-kick as Raheny downed her UCD Waves side in the 2014 Women’s FAI Cup final. “It’s not our first rodeo here.

“It’s absolutely incredible. I’ve been involved in football in Ireland for more years than since Katie was born! I can’t describe my love for Irish football, it’s in your soul and I’ve stayed in Ireland deliberately, committed to Irish football so to walk out in the Aviva Stadium to 38,000 people. That’s just the pinnacle of where we are right now. I can’t think of a bigger honour than to be involved in this moment. We really want to connect with the fans and give them a good experience. It’s the biggest moment so far.”

The duo joke that the crowd will be dominated by McCabe and Denise O’Sullivan’s family and friends, before the former stresses:

“We don’t want this to be a once-off. Yes, we have Tallaght and we have created a lot of special memories in Tallaght. We’ve had great engagement with the fans in Tallaght but this is the pinnacle, playing in your national stadium. Maybe we might see this in the future, it puts a bit of pressure on the FAI.”

The Arsenal star and Ballon d’Or nominee knows there’s no shortage of that on her team also, particularly after the last few weeks and months.

“Look, there is going to be expectation on us now. We are a team that have qualified for our first-ever major tournament. With that, there are more eyes on us, more people watching us, more opinions on us. We understand that but we want to embrace that as well. Playing for your country is always a massive honour but you need to perform at the highest level and each and every one of us know that and we will be looking to give 100% tomorrow.

“It’s just so exciting. I hope to see thousands of boys and girls coming out to cheer us on. We seen all the support online over the summer and in Australia as well, but this will be the first time we will see it at home. The fact that we can do it here in our national stadium is incredibly special.”

eileen-gleeson Gleeson during training this afternoon. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

Both player and manager touch on not underestimating Northern Ireland, who have a new boss themselves in former Chelsea assistant coach Tanya Oxtoby and featured at the 2022 European Championships. Gleeson hopes the groundwork of a “positive week” can all come together on the big stage.

“You have to wait and see what the game plan is but what we will say is that we won’t be under-estimating Northern Ireland and we will be taking it super serious. But we will come here to put on a good performance and come out with three points.

“We are working on being really adaptable and flexible and allowing a lot of freedom for players to problem solve and make their own decisions and that is really what we have been working on in training and players can identify particular situations and they can adapt and make a decision within that. And that allows for creativity on the pitch because once the players step over the line, it is essentially their decision. We have been allowing that freedom to happen.”

“I’m sure we’ve picked up new fans along the way over the course of the summer so it is a showcase of what we’re about as a team,” McCabe adds. “We want to show the pride and passion in our performance but also we’ve developed some new styles this week which we can’t wait to showcase tomorrow.

“We’ve always been defensively strong and solid but we always had that attacking threat as well. Hopefully tomorrow we can put all of that together and obviously put on a great performance.”

And start this new chapter on a high. “The Nations League is super important, we have been driving that message home all week,” Gleeson concludes. “Nobody is taking that for granted.

“As we have spoken about as a team, this is the first step on the road to qualification for Euro 2025. We are not treating this as anything other than a competitive game we want three points from. We know this is the first step on a longer journey.” 

Gleeson has a fully-fit squad to choose from, with Caitlin Hayes available after receiving international clearance.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel