A general view of today's press conference. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Ready to go

‘Denise will play’ as Pauw and McCabe eye historic World Cup opener

‘We want to do the nation proud tomorrow night.’

KATIE MCCABE AND Vera Pauw have shared their delight that Denise O’Sullivan can start Ireland’s World Cup opener against Australia tomorrow.

“Denise is fit, she will play,” Pauw told today’s pre-match press conference at Stadium Australia.

“She trained yesterday and after a full training today, she can play tomorrow.”

Asked if she’s happy the Cork midfield maestro has recovered fully from the injured shin she sustained in last Friday’s abandoned behind closed doors friendly against Colombia, Pauw answered: “Yes”.

“So am I,” McCabe added with a smile.

Earlier in the press conference, the Irish captain also received laughs after having to clarify her correct name for the Fifa coordinator who had fluffed it.

Ireland landed in Sydney today ahead of tomorrow night’s historic sell-out at Stadium Australia. They trained at the nearby Leichhardt Oval following the press conference, arriving over 30 minutes late due to traffic delays. O’Sullivan looked sharp, allaying any concerns for her fitness, with all others training as planned.

They will soon return to the 82,500-capacity Olympic Stadium for pitch familiarisation. Fifa confirmed 75,784 seats for tomorrow night, with a sell-out expected.

denise-osullivan-and-marissa-sheva Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“It’s great to think we are actually here now,” McCabe said. “We landed only a short time ago in the airport, greeted by a number of Irish fans and it was really nice to see them there. They’re our home away from home.

“You can see the numbers that have travelled, and the pictures that are going online and how much support we have here in Sydney, not just today but more importantly tomorrow.

“It’s really special and the whole team feel that, not just the players but the staff as well feel the support from here and at home. And we want to do the nation proud tomorrow night.

“There are a few bits, bands back at home [in Kilnamanagh] a watch party.

I know there are over 100 watch parties all over the country.

“I think my siblings have hired out my mam’s house, because she’s here, to watch the game. Yeah, it’s going to be a great buzz and I just hope everybody enjoys it. If you haven’t got yourself a watch party back in Ireland, make sure you get to one.”

The Arsenal star and Ireland’s youngest-ever captain insisted full focus is on Australia, and Ireland’s first-ever major tournament as a whole.

“We don’t want to just be here and be happy to be here, we want to compete and we want to give Australia, Canada and Nigeria the hardest games possible, starting tomorrow night,” she responded to a question about embracing the underdog tag. 

“For us, fundamentally as a team, we don’t just want to create history. We want to leave a legacy.”

McCabe was also asked for her final words to the team before they walk out in front of almost 80,000 fans.

“I’d love to give you that answer but I’ll be keeping that in-house what I say to the girls tomorrow,” she said.

Why we started playing football is for the love of it, and the enjoyment we bring with each other. Myself and the girls have been on a journey with the coaching staff, and all our staff really these last couple of years.

“It’s something we’ve all worked really hard towards. We’ll just be embracing every moment tomorrow, taking it in, having that moment to ourselves and then when the whistle blows, we’ll be ready to battle.”

Addressing the huge crowd expected at tomorrow’s game, Pauw recalled previous games. 

“We did not collapse under high pressure where it was away to a record crowd to Sweden, away to a record crowd in Finland, at Hampden Park a record crowd, at our stadium a record crowd, but this is something different of course.

“But we’ll take care of ourselves, the thing is we play our game as best as we can and we’ll see if that is enough at the end of the game, after the final whistle.

“We are very realistic in our chances here, but we play every game to win.”

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