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Wednesday 8 February 2023 Dublin: 8°C
INPHO. Clare Shine in Ireland training in 2020.
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'It's a shame for football, but football is not important. Full respect and love'
Vera Pauw pays tribute to Clare Shine in the wake of her decision to step away from football, and speaks about several other players in her set-up.

AMIDST THE INJURY doubts, the ins-and-outs and usual debate in the build-up to the Republic of Ireland women’s squad announcement, there was one name firmly out of the picture.

Clare Shine announced her decision to step away from football last Saturday, and played her final game for Glasgow City on Sunday afternoon, bowing out with a win.

“I have decided it’s time for me to put myself first and step away from football. My happiness and well-being needs to come first,” the 27-year-old international striker wrote in a heartfelt statement.

Shine has opened up on her mental health struggles through the years, with the full extent laid bare in her memoir, ‘Scoring Goals In The Dark,’ this year.

A prodigious underage talent for Ireland, Shine bows out with seven senior caps to her name, having been involved in the set-up under Vera Pauw.

“All respect for her,” Pauw said as she announced her squad for Tuesday weeks’ historic World Cup qualifier away to Scotland or Austria today.

“I’ve had a very long and good talk with her, she told me in person. The thing is she really feels this is the best decision for her. It’s a shame for football, but at this moment football is not important. For us, for me, the only thing is her health, her well-being and that she’s happy. She has chosen this direction so full respect and love.”

Leanne Kiernan and Ellen Molloy were two more attacking options unavailable for selection, the former sustaining a significant ankle ligament injury in action for Liverpool and successfully undergoing surgery this week.

“It happened before. She’s on the point of getting through, and then something happens,” Pauw frowned. “It’s so unfortunate. I feel so sorry for her.

“This tackle was coming from behind, I’ve seen it maybe 20 times. I went through it and through it, but I couldn’t change anything. But I wanted to know what happened. It’s so unfortunate. I’ve never seen her so sharp and so direct as in the last camp.

“You could see it in the play. Against Sweden, she came on and she only went into midfield, there was no impact. Now she came on, the way that we wanted her to play, she was going for it and she made a difference.”

Adding Molloy into the equation, the Wexford Youths teenage sensation having recently suffered a knee injury as first reported by The42, and also without injured midfield duo Megan Connolly and Ruesha Littlejohn, Pauw continued:

“The selection wasn’t too tough – it’s been tougher before. But it is a big blow. Those were the players making an impact when they got on the pitch. They were getting so close, getting stronger and stronger, but if you miss a few line-up players, you need to replace them. You need time to get the others up at that level. We’re going to work really hard on that.”

There are returns for two Niamhs: Fahey and Farrelly, both defensive-minded players.

A groin setback effectively kept Irish centurion and Liverpool captain Fahey out of the last international window, while new Parma addition Farrelly is among those recalled to the set-up.

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ennio-tardini-stadium-parma-italy-august-05-2022-niamh-farrelly-parma-calcio-during-parma-women-vs-inter-fc-internazionale-women-friendly-football-match Alamy Stock Photo Niamh Farrelly has impressed in recent weeks for Parma. Alamy Stock Photo

“That’s fantastic,” Pauw said of Fahey’s restoration. “And especially because we’re missing so many players. We’re very happy. She played against Chelsea, a phenomenal game and, of course, that really helps to boost our confidence that we can handle this.”

And on the fact that this could be a big chance for Farrelly, who has four caps to her name, the Dutch coach added: “It depends on how she performs. She’s doing much better at Parma. Initially she was struggling to get her feet on the ground but she’s getting sharper… she’s not losing balls, she’s not losing duels anymore. She’s better than four weeks ago and that is why she’s selected.”

As is commonplace in almost every Irish women’s press conference these days, Pauw was also asked about captain Katie McCabe.

The left-sided ace is a star on the biggest stages for Arsenal, helping them to Champions League progression this week, and her impact on and off the field for Ireland is striking.

“That is massive,” Pauw agreed. “But it is not only Katie. It is also Denise O’Sullivan with all her experience from the USA league. Megan Connolly is one of the big, big players. It is not only missing Megan Connolly on the pitch but also off the pitch. Niamh Fahey is another one. What about Courtney Brosnan, how she grew and influencing others.

“We have many players that in a positive way that are pulling up the others to a higher level. I am very proud of that, because I feel that many players are performing at a higher level with us than at their club, and that is because of those players.

“Those players give them the space to grow and they help them to grow. You don’t see that often. So together, we are in a good space in that sense.”

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