Katie McCabe speaking at press conference at FAI HQ. Tom Maher/INPHO

'There have been a few unfair headlines. Katie versus Vera, it's not a thing'

Ireland captain McCabe on Pauw departure and a ‘tough’ few weeks.

ALL EYES WERE on Katie McCabe and what she would say in the wake of Vera Pauw’s departure, but it’s Diane Caldwell who will steal the headlines.

The Republic of Ireland captain was up first at a press conference at FAI HQ this afternoon, before the experienced defender offered her scathing assessment.

“The results and performances that we got were in spite of Vera being our coach,” Caldwell said.

McCabe, who has been at the centre of the storm in recent weeks, was more diplomatic, carefully choosing her words as she fielded questions.

Ireland’s first-ever World Cup ended with a manager-and-captain on-field exchange, another tetchy press conference and a zipped-mouth emoji.

“Look, I guess it was a bit of tongue in cheek at the time,” McCabe said about the latter, 49 days on. “On reflection, I could have maybe handled it a little bit better.

“There were obviously a lot of things said by the media and people having opinions which is absolutely fine. The way the women’s game is going now, where we’re higher profile players, what we do will be looked at of course.

“But me and Vera have spoken since then, a few times actually. And from my conversation with her last week, she wishes us well for this Nations League campaign and will be in support for us in that.

I thanked her for what she’s given women’s football in Ireland since she’s come in. We created history together and that will always be written in the history books. She wished us well and I wish her well in whatever’s next for Vera.”

The Arsenal star admits the past few weeks have been difficult.

“It’s been tough, I’m not going to lie,” she told The 42.

“There have been a few unfair headlines I would say. This thing about Katie versus Vera. It’s not a thing. As I said, we have spoken and she wished us well. I’ll always be grateful for what Vera has given Irish football, as well as all my team-mates. We’re in a mindset now where we need to move on, we need to give this closure and have full focus on the Nations League.

“Football comes around quickly and we’ll be working hard to qualify for our first-ever Euros. That’s in the back of our minds as well. I feel okay now. The World Cup takes it out of you mentally and physically. And then you’re straight back into competitive games with Arsenal. That’s the life of a professional footballer. I’ve got great support around me. And the FAI have supported me fantastically as well.”

“The FAI conducted a review and spoke to everybody, and felt they wanted to go in a different direction from a football point of view,” the Dubliner later added.

“We need to respect that decision, we don’t make those decisions as players, as much as the player power narrative has been thrown around, that’s not the case. We understand how people can interpret that, the public can, but we’re footballers at the end of the day. We want to talk about football, we don’t want to be talking about all of this nitty-gritty going on in the media. We want to focus on training and playing games for our country, that’s what’s most important for us.”

McCabe, who was recently nominated for the Ballon d’Or, welcomed this new chapter with Eileen Gleeson in interim charge for the upcoming Nations League double-header against Northern Ireland and Hungary.

The “fantastic” Emma Byrne is assisting her alongside Colin Healy, with former Brazil national team performance coach Ivi Casagrande joining the set-up. A nutritionist and psychologist have also been acquired as the post-Pauw era begins.

“It’s a fresh start, we’re ready to go, the Nations League is new for us as well,” McCabe concluded. “We’ve got something to be excited for.

“We’ve sold over 30,000 tickets for a game at the Aviva Stadium for the first time ever off the back of a World Cup and I can tell you now, the girls can’t wait to get going on Saturday, to walk out in front of our fans in our national stadium. It’s gonna be an amazing game hopefully and we’ll be doing everything we can to win it of course.”

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