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Katie McCabe: 'There's still a lot of football to be played'

The Ireland captain was keen to move on to the next one after last night’s disappointing result.

Katie McCabe applauding Ireland fans after the game.
Katie McCabe applauding Ireland fans after the game.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

AS SHE SO very often does, Katie McCabe led by example last night.

The Republic of Ireland captain levelled matters in the 65th minute against Slovakia at Tallaght Stadium, ultimately securing a point for her side in the quest for World Cup qualification.

McCabe, who is enjoying a rich vein of form at Arsenal at the minute, was a fitness doubt coming in after sustaining a knock to her foot against Manchester United on Sunday, but she shook off the setback and felt good throughout the gritty 1-1 draw.

“Probably didn’t look it in the first half, mind you,” she grinned afterwards. “But I was delighted to be out there with the girls.”

A stones’ throw from her home in Kilnamanagh, McCabe turned in a Player of the Match performance when needed most.

Like she leads through her actions on the pitch, she must do so with her words off it; always one of the first players to face the music post-match.

And the general consensus was this was a disappointing result against a lower-ranked side. A slip up. Especially given the momentum behind Ireland after their win in Finland, which put them in a favourable position in Group A.

The 26-year-old agreed, getting there in a roundabout way.

“Obviously we want to go in and compete and win games, especially when we are playing at home in Tallaght. This is our fortress,” she began.

“We want to make it a difficult place to come but I think we showed that, especially in the second half, after we conceded the early goal after half time. We came out fighting, got the equaliser and I felt we could have kept pushing for the second.

“It nearly came, but credit to Louise [Quinn] for actually keeping us in it with her unbelievable block at the back. All in all, disappointed with the result but we need to move on to Tuesday now.”

a-young-fan-holds-up-a-sign-after-the-game A young fan holds a sign addressed to the Ireland captain. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The journalists around her won’t move on just as quickly, though, asking questions and offering analysis on the game at hand.

McCabe credited “well drilled” Slovakia, saying she wasn’t surprised by their quality in this, their first clash with Ireland that didn’t end in defeat.

“They had quality back then,” she stresses. “This is women’s football, it’s evolving and international teams are evolving. You could see they had really good passages of play. You can’t take them for granted, and we didn’t. We did well to get a point in the end.”

So a good point, or a case of two dropped?

“I think it’s a good point, especially with that chance that Louise blocked at the end. It’s a very, very good point, but we can’t dwell on it. We need to keep moving on. There is still a lot of football to be played.”

Fair enough, but what about that goal before moving on?

McCabe’s finish was a beautiful one after good work from Denise O’Sullivan and Heather Payne in the build-up. As she watched the ball rattle the net and wheeled away in celebration, she beat her hand of her chest, hammering the Ireland crest as her passion and pride in the jersey shone through more than ever.

Reliving the goal, she recalls: “Denise picks it up and it’s my job to make forward runs down that left-hand side. I know she can find me. She shoved off the player, played me in and I was delighted to see it hit the back of the net.

“From then on, I thought we could keep pushing which we did. I think we showed great character. We just to need to start games a little bit quicker. We need to tidy up, and take those positives into Tuesday.”

Okay so, moving on to Georgia.

While she wouldn’t say out straight that a win over the group’s bottom seeds in Tallaght is now more important given the current landscape of Group A, or that it’s a must-win with three points non-negotiable, McCabe was diplomatic as ever.

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“They are all as important as each other especially in this World Cup qualifying campaign. Any team can take points off each other. We need to look at tonight and push on to Tuesday.

“It’s a big one. They’re all as big as each other. We can’t take Georgia for granted. They are going to difficult, they have quality players in their side and we have to respect that and find the best solution to try and get the win.”

katie-mccabe-celebrates-scoring-a-goal McCabe celebrating her goal. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Perhaps she would accept Ireland are in a real battle for second spot, with the prospect of winning the group likely gone as Sweden roar on after a 2-1 home win over Finland?

“There’s still a lot of football to be played,” she repeated. “We have Sweden away, Finland at home, Slovakia away and Georgia twice. Plenty of games, so we’ll see come the end of the campaign.”

She did say she will be fully fit for Tuesday, Ireland’s final game of 2021, though, and hopes another “brilliant” crowd can come out after 5,164 braved the elements last night, falling just short of the record.

“They ultimately got us over the line there tonight in the second half especially,” McCabe smiled, after giving her boots to a young girl. “They kept pushing us right until the 95th minute.

“There’s no words for it: hearing them cheer you on. We hope they can come out again on Tuesday night and get behind us and hopefully we can put on a good performance for them.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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