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'Everything is in place now where we can achieve something' - Irish woman looking to create history

Niamh Fahey and Diane Caldwell, right, during Republic of Ireland training
Niamh Fahey and Diane Caldwell, right, during Republic of Ireland training
Diane Caldwell. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Nobody in the Irish squad knows their Norwegian opposition better than Diane Caldwell but none have seen more of the lean times in their own set-up either.

Since making her international debut in 2006, the 29-year-old has been the wanderer of the squad, moving from Dublin to the United States, then Iceland, Norway and finally her current residence of Germany.

Throughout the club circuit, Caldwell learned from her peers how other international teams treated their players, implementing standards compatible with mounting qualification bids.

Back on her own international gatherings, however, the defender saw her team-mates having to take unpaid leave from their job without compensation from the FAI and tracksuits being handed back after trips, with airport toilets the necessary changing facility.

When push finally came to shove through a press conference at Liberty Hall 14 months ago, the public outcry and the prospect of a friendly against Slovakia being boycotted did the trick.

Pressure was brought to bear and now the pressure turns on the players.

Sitting second in Group 3, they must beat Norway either this evening at Tallaght (5.30pm) or in the rematch in Stavanger on Tuesday to keep their ambitions of reaching a World Cup play-off intact.

"It all comes down to us now," said the centre-back who plays for German club SC Sand.

"The changes we wanted in the set-up were well-documented. We were fighting for bare minimal things required for a national team and everything is in place now where we can achieve something.

"Those excuses are now eradicated, everything is sorted off the pitch and it's a matter of getting the results to reach France.

"Nobody seemed to know anything about us before but the media and television coverage has got us the backing of the public. That's the pressure we've craved for years."

Ireland showed what they were made of by holding European champions Holland scoreless in Nijmegen last November. Beating top seeds Norway would exceed that feat as the best result in the history of Irish women's football.

"Norway fully expect an easy six points off us but they have weaknesses too which I'm aware of," said Caldwell.

"The stakes in these matches are massive, certainly the biggest games of my international career, and I'm confident we will come through them."

IRELAND - (probable): M Hourihan (Manchester City); S Perry-Campbell (Brighton & Hove Albion), L Quinn (Arsenal), D Caldwell (SC Sand), K Duggan (Peamount Utd); M Connolly (Florida State), N Fahey (Bordeaux); L Kiernan (Shelbourne), D O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), K McCabe (Arsenal); A Barrett (Peamount Utd).

Irish Independent

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