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Vera Pauw explains why Ireland's Aviva Stadium 'dream' can't happen yet

The Irish boss says such a move would be unhelpful at present.

Vera Pauw pictured at today's press conference.
Vera Pauw pictured at today's press conference.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

THERE IS undoubtedly a feel-good factor around the Irish women’s national team at present.

Game-changing sponsorship deals indicate a belief that the team is going places, while the long-overdue decision to award the team equal pay to their male counterparts was a further boost.

Impressive recent wins over Australia and Finland have also enhanced the sense of excitement around Vera Pauw’s improving side.

And one obvious next challenge is to ensure that the team garners enough of a following so that it one day can fill the Aviva Stadium.

The record attendance for a women’s match at Tallaght Stadium remains the 5,328 that watched Pauw’s first game in charge — a 3-2 win over Ukraine in October 2019.

However, it’s understood that tickets are selling well for the upcoming home match against Slovakia on 25 November, and there is a sense they could potentially surpass the Ukraine figure.

However, when asked about a move to the Aviva Stadium, where the Irish men’s team play regularly, Pauw played down the chances of this happening anytime soon and suggested such a switch would be unhelpful to the team at present.

“The Aviva Stadium would be fantastic if we could fill it. That would be amazing. It will come. But playing in an empty stadium will not help us. Tallaght is our home, that’s where our heart is and the crowd’s heart is.

“As long as that stadium will do for the capacity we will stay there. As soon as Tallaght Stadium is too small, then we have to think bigger. But for now, 6/7,000 at the Aviva, which would virtually mean an empty stadium, that will not help players, the crowd, and the little girls to get contact with the players, which is so important at this stage. In the future, of course, the Aviva Stadium is the dream and it will come true one day. But at the moment, Tallaght Stadium is big enough.”

Asked about the rising popularity of the Irish women’s team in general, Pauw added: “It is others who can say that. I am stepping into a process and just doing my job. I am not aware of the people around. I read papers of course and after such a massive win that’s very positive. But the vibes I cannot feel because I am in the process. You can say that more than we do.”  

Most critics expect Sweden and their array of top-class players to top Group A and seal automatic World Cup qualification ultimately, while the battle for second place that would secure a play-off spot is generally being perceived as being between the two next-highest seeds, Finland and Ireland.

While Pauw acknowledged the significance of last month’s “massive” win in Helsinki on the back of a narrow 1-0 loss to Sweden in Tallaght, she says the upcoming home matches against Slovakia and Georgia are equally important.

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“If we manage to put the intensity on the pitch that we have done against Sweden and Finland, and don’t take that lightly, it’s extremely difficult, but if we get a good result and win both games, then we are on track for qualification

“So this is probably a more difficult week than the previous one. Although the opponents were ranked much higher, this is the crucial week.

“If we do not manage to get that intensity on the pitch — that is emotionally so difficult to get to that stage — then we will not manage to get those points.

“I don’t know who expects us to win, I want to downgrade expectations. Not because I don’t want the pressure of being favourite, but being realistic, it will be difficult to break down their defence. We have to play with the same intensity as against Finland to have a chance to gain those points, just because we have to make the play and they can sit back.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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