McCabe hopes to inspire future generations

McCabe hopes to inspire future generations

Ireland captain Katie McCabe has said she hopes Ireland's current crop of stars can inspire future generations when they take part in their debut World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next month.

Things look bright for Ireland's women's team, however there was a time when women's football in Ireland could only dream of tournaments like the one that is about to take place.

In 2017, more than a dozen players from Ireland's national team went on strike over their treatment by Ireland's governing body, the FAI. Claims of having to change out of team tracksuits and official sports gear in airport toilets were highlighted by Ireland's former players.

A lawyer representing the team said in 2017, "It's about the rights of the players, about respect, dignity, equality, fairness. The women's national team is not being treated as a second-class citizen, but a fifth-class citizen. They are the dirt off the FAI's shoe. That's how they see them."

Since then, the Girls in Green made history last year by qualifying for their first-ever major tournament. Amber Barrett's goal in Scotland ensured that Vera Pauw's side would be playing with some of the best sides in the world this coming July.

McCabe, who was one of the younger members of that Ireland squad, thanked former stars like Emma Byrne and Steph Roche for paving the way for the current crop of Ireland players.

'Back in 2017 when I was sat there in Liberty Hall with the rest of the girls, I was young, probably naive about what was really going on,' said McCabe at an event in Dublin this week.

'We had fantastic leaders at the time - Emma Byrne, Aine, Steph Roche. As I got older, I started to understand more about how brave it was for those girls to sit there and speak up, to have a voice and be heard.

'We were looking for parity, we were looking for better facilities, our own kit. To go from that to where we are now, heading to our first major tournament, rebuilding our relationship with the FAI... you can only see the benefits through our performances on the pitch.'

Now, Ireland and Vera Pauw will head to Australia to play the co-hosts, Nigeria, and Canada. The current Ireland squad is eager to set and cement their own legacy for the generations to come. McCabe hopes that this year's World Cup adventure won't be an anomaly going forward.

"Dare to dream, really," she said. "We've dreamt about this. Our role models were men growing up. My role model was Damien Duff. For young girls to have Denise O'Sullivan as their role model, Louise Quinn, Ruesha Littlejohn, whoever it may be, is so special.

"It's fantastic to see the level of participation in girls' grassroots football going through the roof. I'm hopeful we'll be sitting here and regularly qualifying for tournaments in years to come."

Ireland WNT Squad

Goalkeepers: Courtney Brosnan (Everton), Grace Moloney (Reading), Megan Walsh (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Defenders: Heather Payne (Florida State University), Áine O'Gorman (Shamrock Rovers), Niamh Fahey (Liverpool), Louise Quinn (Birmingham City), Diane Caldwell (Reading), Claire O'Riordan (Celtic), Megan Connolly (Brighton & Hove Albion), Chloe Mustaki (Bristol City), Izzy Atkinson (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Katie McCabe (Arsenal), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Lily Agg (London City Lionesses), Ruesha Littlejohn (Aston Villa), Ciara Grant (Hearts), Sinead Farrelly (NJ/NY Gotham), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham City)

Forwards: Kyra Carusa (London City Lionesses), Amber Barrett (Standard Liege), Marissa Sheva (Washington Spirit), Abbie Larkin (Shamrock Rovers)Training Players: Sophie Whitehouse, Harriet Scott, Jamie Finn