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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 3 March 2021

'Once you want to represent Ireland with 100% and give it all in the Irish shirt, I don't care where you're from'

Ireland captain Katie McCabe fully supports Vera Pauw’s approach in searching out non-Irish born players to boost their Euro 2021 hopes.

IRELAND CAPTAIN KATIE McCabe has welcomed manager Vera Pauw’s approach in searching out Irish-eligible players overseas to potentially join the Girls In Green squad.

katie-mccabe Ireland captain Katie McCabe. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

At the squad announcement for the side’s crucial Euro 2021 qualifying double-header against Greece and Montenegro, Pauw revealed that three newcomers had agreed to declare for Ireland.

American-born striker Kyra Carusa was added to the squad last week after receiving international clearance to play. The 24-year-old qualifies through her mother’s grandparents who hail from Cork and Laois. 

While former England youth international Nicole Douglas also linked up with the squad for training in recent days, the Arizona State University striker has not completed the necessary process to represent Ireland just yet.

Fellow ex-England underage player Maegen Doyle is another for future consideration, though she has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Douglas qualifies through a parent, while Doyle has an Irish grandparent.

There is no doubt that the ‘granny’ and parentage rules have been vital for the Irish men’s team, with non-Irish born players featuring heavily since the Jack Charlton era –  “You want me to compete with the best in the world, I’ve got to have the f*****g best in the world,” as the Englishman famously said. “And it’s not here in Ireland that I can find it, I’ve got to go to England or Scotland to find it.” — and we’re now seeing Pauw capitalise on that.

The Dutch woman believes she can improve the squad in this way as she looks to guide Ireland to a first-ever major tournament, and McCabe fully supports the approach.

If you have English relations, American relations,” the Arsenal star said, “once you are proud to put on the Irish shirt, that’s all I care about… you want to represent Ireland with 100% and give it all in the Irish shirt, then I don’t care where you’re from.

“Once you come in, respect everyone, respect our philosophy, the way we play and the passion we have for our country and playing for our country, you can be from wherever.”

The Dubliner added that there’s no feeling of resistance among the already-settled group to the likes of Carusa being parachuted in midway through a qualifying campaign 

“No, absolutely not. I think that’s what’s great about this team. I think we’re a very welcoming team. It’s very easy to come in and be part of the group. I think the girls do really well, and that’s a credit to each and every one of the players and staff for making people feel welcome whenever they are coming in.

“It’s obviously a great trait for the girls that they can welcome anyone in.”

kyra-carusa Kyra Carusa in training on Monday. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

At the time of interview, McCabe hadn’t seen a whole lot of San Diego native Carusa as she missed the beginning of camp through club commitments. But the captain is pleased with reports from team-mates about the striker who recently joined HB Koge in Denmark. 

From what I’ve heard, she brings real energy to the team,” McCabe noted. “It’s exciting to have her over and to have her experience of what she’s done in America, who she’s played for, to bring that in. The girls have said she’s full of energy and she’s great.

“Hopefully she’ll be a good addition for the next few years.”

While Douglas and Doyle could come into the picture for the April double-header against Group I runaway leaders Germany, Ireland’s entire focus is on Greece in Tallaght Stadium tomorrow night [kick-off 7.15pm, live on RTÉ].

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In the away tie in Athens, the Greeks ruined Ireland’s perfect start to qualifying with a last-gasp equaliser — “it was frustrating, I felt we dominated the game,” McCabe sighed, despite injuries and absentees — so this is a revenge mission, and a hunt for three points. 

“We’ve a fantastic squad to get the job done, honestly it’s so strong,” the skipper continued, before switching her attention to their opponents. 

“They’re very feisty. They did enjoy getting stuck into us, but obviously we love getting stuck in as well. They were very organised, they made it difficult for us. They had threats for us, that’s what we need to look at now; what are their strengths and weaknesses going into Thursday, how we can score against them and look to get the three points…

That’s something else: when we are on top, how we finish teams off. How we get the second goal, how can we get the third goal in? We’re well able to score, we’ve got quality players to do that and very creative midfield players as well. We’ll be looking to bring that into Thursday.

After wins over Montenegro and second seeds Ukraine on top of that draw, Ireland are currently second in Group I, with the group winners and three best second-placed sides qualifying for England 2021 automatically.

katie-mccabe-celebrates-scoring-her-sides-first-goal-with-teammates McCabe, Rianna Jarrett and Denise O'Sullivan celebrate during the win over Slovakia. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The six other runners-up head for play-offs, which seems like the realistic target right now in the grand scheme of things. Pauw and her side know that there’s no margin for error against Greece, and Montenegro away (11 March), with six points the necessary end result. 

“It’s going to be tough,” McCabe nods. “Greece have shown us they don’t back down. They went right to the 90th minute with us, so by no means, it’s going to be an easy game.

Montenegro either, we beat them 2-0 here, but going there is going to be tough. We’re going to focus on Greece, first the task at hand and get on the front foot nice and early. We have the power up front with Rianna obviously flying with Brighton. I texted her actually saying ‘Keep those goals for Thursday night please!’

“Obviously, you look at Germany absolutely dominating everyone, and I think for us, it’s not so much a matter of first or second, we just need to concentrate on each game as it comes,” she added on the state of play in the group.

“I know it’s a cliché but there’s no point in worrying about Germany if we don’t get the job done on Thursday night and we don’t get three points, and then the next one; Montenegro, another three points and then we look at Germany away in April.

“We’ve shown in the past that when we’re organised and when we’re connected, we can get big results against big nations — obviously Netherlands being the famous one in the past, and we had chances galore in that game.

“It’s very much taking it game by game and then concentrating on the Germans when we come across the Germans.”

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Emma Duffy

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