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'Katie has a very difficult position, and that is something that we will discuss this week'

Vera Pauw has suggested the Ireland star may need to adapt her game in the coming days.

Katie McCabe and manager Vera Pauw pictured at today's press conference.
Katie McCabe and manager Vera Pauw pictured at today's press conference.
Image: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

VERA PAUW reserved high praise for captain Katie McCabe but also suggested she may have to “compromise for the good of the team this week” as Ireland prepare for two crucial World Cup qualifiers in the coming days. 

The Dubliner is widely regarded as one of the few world-class players in Ireland’s squad.

The 26-year-old was named in the most recent Women’s Super League team of the season, while she has started the current campaign impressively for Arsenal, registering three goals and three assists from five matches.

McCabe has thrived in one of the dominant teams in the English top-flight, but it’s likely to be a different story on Thursday at Tallaght Stadium in front of an expected crowd of 4,000 fans when Ireland face Sweden, a side currently ranked second in the world by Fifa.

A more pragmatic, backs-to-the-wall performance than usual will likely be required, and Pauw suggests McCabe faces a challenge in adapting to the type of scenario that she would rarely if ever face at club level.

“I think everybody can see the importance of Katie for this squad, on and off the pitch,” the Irish boss said. “She’s my first link, of course as captain but not only because she’s wearing the captaincy band but because she is the captain of this team.

“Katie has a very difficult position, and that is something that we will discuss this week together. She doesn’t know yet so she knows now — because at Arsenal she has a different role than here and switching from one role to the other is extremely difficult, especially when you feel that she can do even more than she does already for the team.”

On what she brings to the team, Pauw added: “The professionalism, the hunger of success, the leadership qualities; you cannot wish anything better as a coach from your captain.”

McCabe has been asked to play in a variety of positions for club and country alike, sometimes operating as a full-back and often, further forward.

On where she might be deployed for Ireland in the coming days, Pauw continued: “She wants to be more attacking. She wants to do more in a forward role. We also want to do that, of course, because we want her goal-scoring and assisting capacities in the squad.

“But we also know that we play second-best in the world — and then you have to compromise for the good of the team. Whereas in Arsenal, she has world-class players – we have them here also, but there, she has a whole bunch of strikers and midfielders around her that she’s serving.

“Here, she wants to serve, and she wants to create, and she wants to beat those players. Of course, she does, because she wants everything for this squad. She wants to give her all, and that is sometimes not always possible. That will be our discussion.”

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Speaking ahead of the important opening qualifiers at home to Sweden (21 October) and away against Finland (26 October), McCabe said: “That’s what international football is all about — testing yourself against the best. There’s no better way to start off against Sweden. We had the frustrations last camp against Georgia and we had to push it back. But for us to start our campaign off now against Sweden is really exciting. They’re one of the top teams in the world. I watched them over the course of the summer at the Olympics as well. I played against the likes of [Magdalena] Eriksson week in week out.

“So we know the quality we have. But it’s for us to prepare ourselves as best we can in the upcoming games and see what we can get out of that.”

Asked whether the team could become the first-ever Irish senior women’s side to reach a major tournament, the Gunners star added: “I’m confident in this squad, what we’re capable of. Obviously, in the last camp, we worked on certain things with that Australia game. We got a positive result. So for us, it’s about keeping the positivity going into that camp and getting to work and preparing as best we can.

“I first came in when I was 18 or 19 at the time. It was always something we spoke about, qualifying for a major tournament. I really wanted to get there for those players that were in the squad at the time, the Emma Byrnes. So for us to not got there yet, you hear the conversations at club level, I’ve Dutch teammates, English teammates that come off a little bit, World Cups, Euros. It’s frustrating and I want to be part of that. But I know where we’re at in our journey within this Republic of Ireland setup. The staff, we know where we’re at. If you look back at the last qualifying campaign, the games were really tough and obviously, we had a Covid period as well.

“But we’ve learned from that, getting used to being in those pressure situations, those stress scenarios and those games against top-ranked opposition.

“We’ve gained enough experience to learn from that to prepare as best we can for this Sweden game on Thursday.”

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Paul Fennessy

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