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Katie McCabe and Ireland happy to put smiles on faces with 'historic end to the year'

The skipper sparkled again as Vera Pauw’s side beat Georgia 11-0 last night.

Katie McCabe celebrates scoring her second goal against Georgia.
Katie McCabe celebrates scoring her second goal against Georgia.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IRELAND CAPTAIN KATIE McCabe hailed an “historic end to the year” after last night’s record-breaking 11-0 win over Georgia.

Vera Pauw’s side got their 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign back on track and ended 2021 on the highest of highs, with McCabe one of six Irish goal-scorers.

The Arsenal star was on the double in a Player of the Match-winning performance, with Denise O’Sullivan scoring a hat-trick. Kyra Carusa, Lucy Quinn, Saoirse Noonan and Megan Connolly were also on target, while Georgia also scored an own goal.

It was the perfect way for the Girls In Green to bounce back from a disappointing 1-1 draw with lower-ranked Slovakia – their main rivals for second place – last week, and comes as their second win of the campaign after the monumental 2-1 one in Finland last month (they also lost 1-0 to Sweden at home).

The heavy Georgia victory moves them to second in Group A at the midway point, eight points behind heavyweights Sweden with a game in hand as they chase qualification for a first-ever major tournament, with Finland one behind and Slovakia further back.

“We really wanted to put on a good performance tonight, especially after Thursday’s draw,” McCabe said after. “We knew we needed to get out, it was a must-win and to do it in the manner we did tonight was absolutely brilliant.”

Scoring early “settled the nerves,” after Slovakia’s own goal handed Ireland the dream start with just four minutes on the clock. It came, as most threats did, off the back of a McCabe delivery, the Arsenal star a constant thorn in Georgia’s side throughout.

4-0 up at half time, the team talk was about “making sure we kept the foot on the gas” and showing “that relentless mentality we needed” with goal difference likely an important factor down the line.

McCabe’s two goals came in the second half, having also stepped up with a handful of assists, and as always, played a central role. She led by example on the pitch, and did so off it too in her post-match interviews.

The skipper kept referring back to Thursday’s disappointing draw with Slovakia, speaking about the analysis done, improvements made and “few positives” held on to since, in terms of positioning and game plan.

“For us, it’s being braver on the ball,” she explained. “I think we’re good enough. We’ve got really quality players, technically gifted players.

“Denise [O'Sullivan], she’s joint-second top goalscorer now with that hat-trick. I think she’s a world-class player, so when you’ve got players like that on the pitch, it’s up to you to utilise that and get forward. It was brilliant tonight.

“We can’t obviously change Thursday night. All we can look forward to now is next year. For us, it was about winning tonight, getting those three points to remain second going into 2022. That was our target tonight and I’m delighted with the three points. The game plan was executed, I would say, but it’s definitely one to build on for 2022.”

The campaign resumes next April, with friendlies to come in an international window in the meantime, but Ireland are thrown straight back into the deep end with an away fixture against Sweden, the world’s second best team.

“It’s going to be a difficult task. We know that, we’ve already been up against it here in October so we know what they’re about. Hopefully we’ll get those few friendlies in beforehand that can really prepare us and we can get a bit of momentum going into April.”

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The Dubliner and her side certainly had that as the clock ticked on last night, a crowd of 3,523 not letting conditions dampen their spirits as they enjoyed an historic win.

“The fans were absolutely brilliant tonight,” McCabe concluded. “I think it was just over 3,000 coming out to see us in the wind and rain in Tallaght.

“It was up to us to put in a good performance for them, and I hope we did that tonight, even for the people watching at home on RTÉ. It’s been a tough two years with this Covid, so if we can put a smile on the fans’ faces, that means the world to us.”

McCabe’s focus now switches to Arsenal’s FA Cup final date with Chelsea in Wembley on Sunday.

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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