“Tough”, “physical”, “brutal”, “horrible to play against”.
Ahead of their World Cup games, so far, against Australia and Canada, Katie McCabe and her Irish teammates were portrayed as these battlers and booters that could put ’em under pressure and not much else.
Ireland are one of the new dogs on the World Cup block and there was a certain amount of patronising when coaches and players discussed Vera Pauw’s side.
Each time Ireland and their player were patted on the head and spoken about as an honest but spartan side, many of us would have thought, let’s wait and see. In the World Cup opener, Ireland were good enough for at least a draw but the hosts won through a penalty that was their only decent shot on target.
The Aussie press had declared Katie McCabe as ‘public enemy number one’ after a World Cup opener in which she conceded one foul and stepped in to defend her teammates on a couple of occasions.
Up next were the Olympic champs and, again, the Canadian reporters pressed on how physical and tough Ireland would be. The plucky underdog there to nip at the heels.
On Wednesday, in Perth, Ireland were a mix of hammer and sickle. They hooshed and harried, but they also cut the Canadians to ribbons with some of their passes, inside balls, overlaps and direct runs. McCabe scored from a corner and could have had another – denied only by a desperate deflection after beating three players – Kyra Carusa could have had two and Denise O’Sullivan also went close.
Ireland showed they were more than what many felt was their ceiling. They certainly showed they belonged in a World Cup, albeit on the same night as they exited after a crushing 2-1 defeat.
Following the game, as that exit sank in, there was heartbreaking TV footage inside the Ireland huddle. O’Sullivan was crying freely while McCabe, who was Ireland’s best player, was broken in two.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) July 26, 2023
RTE pundits question half-time substitution
As the RTE feed cut back and forth from the studio to Perth, pundits Karen Duggan and Megan Campbell looked back on that loss to Canada and some of the game’s crucial moments.
“We had the majority of the possession, if not the best chances as well,” said Campbell, who was unfortunate to miss out on the final World Cup squad selection.
“We made a change [for the second half] taking Lucy Quinn off [for Abbie Larkin], which I don’t know if it was necessarily the right thing to do or not. We had such a good performance in the first half that maybe it rocked us in the second half.”
Campbell acknowledged that Canada looked the better team in the second half, even though Ireland fashioned two of the best goalscoring chances, both of which involved Katie McCabe.
Duggan felt the Canada goal just before half-time was a “sucker punch” for Ireland and agreed with Campbell that the Vera Pauw change, at the break, was unnecessary. “We have to look at why we fell off a cliff in the second half,” she added.
Check out our House of Football interview with the Irish women’s team record goal scorer Olivia O’Toole:
- Ireland vs Canada: Team news, TV details and everything you need to know about Women’s World Cup clash.
- Ireland legend compares Denise O’Sullivan to Roy Keane ahead of World Cup debut.
- “She’s quite blunt, straight to the point” – Stephanie Zambra speaks about working under Ireland manager Vera Pauw.
- Everything you need to know about the Women’s World Cup: Teams, groups, fixtures, dates, venues.
- Ireland’s pre-World Cup match abandoned after 20 minutes due to ‘overly physical play’.
- “Let them eat shit!” – Colombian player blasts Ireland as game abandoned after Denise O’Sullivan injury.